Faith in Community on Monday urged Fresno officials, including the police department and Mayor Ashley Swearengin, to “be transparent with the public” as Fresno Police Auditor Rick Rasmussen conducts a review of department practices in the wake of Deputy Chief Keith Foster’s arrest on federal drug charges.
“As a multi-faith coalition of congregations, we believe that the City has a moral obligation to transparency, both from our law enforcement officers as well as from our elected and appointed officials,” Faith in Community, a network of 20 churches and community groups, said in a written statement. “Those that are sworn to uphold the law are held to a higher standard. Unfortunately, there seems to be a pattern of allegations of misconduct levied against the Fresno Police Department. Our prayer and recommendation is that our city manager, mayor and police chief will use this as a teaching moment and recommit itself to its aspiration as a Department that is seen by all in the community as there to protect and serve.”
The joint statement on behalf of Faith in Community was credited to four pastors — Paul Binion of the Westside Church of God, David Criner of Saints Rest Baptist Church, Andrew Feil of The Well Community Church and Chris Breedlove of Community U.C.C. It made no judgment on Foster, saying he was innocent until proven guilty.
But the organization did make several suggestions following Foster’s arrest.
• Revisiting police Chief Jerry Dyer’s community police advisory board, both to ensure strong and diverse community representation, as well as ensuring a structure that provides ability for community-driven decision making and accountability.
• Giving “true independence” to the police auditor.
• Asking Dyer for a “concrete plan” for the return to community policing as a primary vehicle for rebuilding trust between local law enforcement and residents of Fresno.
• Fully support and expedite Dyer’s Youth Advisory Council. It is a way, the pastors said, for Dyer to connect with young people who are the future leaders of this city.
In a statement Monday evening, City Manager Bruce Rudd said: “We believe the Internal Affairs investigation as well the report by the Office of Independent Review will provide the accountability and transparency our administration has promised and our citizens expect. We welcome suggestions from groups like Faith In Community which help reinforce Chief Dyer’s commitment to community policing that is already a part of the Police Department’s DNA.”