Fresno’s independent police auditor has concluded that the June 2016 shooting of Dylan Noble by two Fresno police officers in a gas station parking lot was “not within policy” of the department.
But overall, the report said the Fresno Police Department made progress last year in reducing the number of citizen complaints and internal investigations of officer misconduct compared with the prior five years.
Auditor Richard Rasmussen, in the Office of Independent Review’s report released Monday for the fourth quarter of 2016, noted the disposition of the Noble shooting without elaboration on the findings of his audit. Rasmussen’s assessment followed a finding by the department’s internal affairs investigation that also deemed the actions of the two officers to be in violation of the department’s policies and procedures, according to the report.
Noble, 19, was shot four times by officers on June 25, 2016, near Shields and Armstrong avenues. He died as a result of his injuries. Noble’s parents have filed a pair of wrongful-death lawsuits against the city over their son’s death. Because of those lawsuits, Fresno police Chief Jerry Dyer said he was advised by the city attorney’s office not to discuss the auditor’s conclusions with The Bee.
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Noble was not armed during the fatal encounter, but video from the officers’ body cameras showed that Noble refused to follow orders to show his hands, instead repeatedly reaching toward his waistband and behind his back. Dyer said in December that all four shots fired by officers into Noble were ruled justified under department policies. But, he added, the 14 seconds between the third and fourth shots provided enough time for the officers to consider alternatives to the fourth round, a shotgun blast.
When there is misconduct, there is an internal investigation that occurs, and when we find policy violations, employees are held accountable.
Fresno police Chief Jerry Dyer
Rasmussen’s report also provided a year-end look at the volume of internal affairs investigations and disciplinary actions within the department last year – figures that Dyer said reflect the effects of increased training of officers and a culture of heightened accountability within the department. From 2011 through 2015, Fresno’s internal affairs unit conducted an average of 137.8 investigations. In 2016, that number had fallen to 90 – half generated from issues within the department, half based on complaints from residents in the community.
“In 2016 there were 90 complaints in which 32 officers were subject to some form of corrective action and training,” Rasmussen wrote in his report.
Also last year, the report notes that seven officers were terminated from their jobs and another 16 suspended without pay for unspecified periods of time. The number of terminations was the second-highest number since 2011, while the suspensions outpaced each of the prior five years.
In December, Dyer implied that the two officers involved in the Noble shooting had been subject to disciplinary action, but added that employee confidentiality laws prohibited him from discussing “specific details of corrective action taken against the officers.” The Fresno County District Attorney’s Office declined to file criminal charges against the officers.
“The message is that we do hold our employees accountable. When there is misconduct, there is an internal investigation that occurs, and when we find policy violations, employees are held accountable,” Dyer said Tuesday. “I think most people would be surprised at the fact that I terminated seven officers last year and suspended 16 without pay; I don’t believe that’s generally what people think because they don’t hear about it.”
The reduction in the number of investigations and of formal and informal citizen complaints, he added, “is a result of better training for officers on de-escalation of force, of training we have incorporated on community policing and positive interactions with citizens.”
The Rasmussen report detailed that there was one officer-involved shooting of a person during the fourth quarter, bringing the yearly total to eight, and two cases in which officers shot animals, for a total of four for the year. Of 110 vehicle collisions involving police during the year, 27 happened in the fourth quarter. And of 90 vehicle pursuits during 2016, 18 took place in the final three months.
Internal investigations and discipline
Complaints from residents and internal-affairs investigations of police misconduct in the Fresno Police Department were down sharply in 2016 compared with the prior five years, but serious disciplinary actions against officers – terminations and suspensions without pay – were up from prior years.
Internal affairs investigations
Based on citizen complaints
Inquiry complaint forms and
Suspensions without pay
Source: Office of Independent Review, Quarterly Report, Fourth Quarter 2016