Family members, law enforcement and city officials packed Fresno City Hall on Tuesday to watch 38 people and two dogs assume new roles in the Fresno Police Department.
Chief Jerry Dyer introduced each of the 40 new dispatchers, cadets, police dogs, officers, sergeants and lieutenants during the lengthy ceremony.
“These individuals are willing to face the challenges of this department,” he said. “Their loved ones will have to deal with them working nights, weekends and holidays for the purpose of serving the community.”
Dyer turned to address the crowd: “And we will do our very best to keep your loved ones safe – giving them the best equipment and training.”
The department welcomed one dispatcher, two police dogs and 10 cadets. Thirteen recruit officers and four lateral officers – those Dyer said were “stolen” from other departments – also joined the ranks.
Dyer also added six new sergeants and four lieutenants. This marked the first time in seven years that more than one new lieutenant, captain or deputy chief was named in a year.
704The number of sworn officers in the Fresno Police Department.
One of the new lieutenants, Mindy Casto, will assume the role of evening field commander. She will keep the department running overnight with her fellow lieutenants.
She is the only female lieutenant in the department, which consists of 704 officers – 77 of whom are women. Dyer has said in the past that hiring and promoting more women and African-Americans was a priority.
Despite the disparity, Casto said she never has been judged or treated unfairly because of her gender. She first started working at the department as an Explorer while still in high school.
“This is a very professional group,” she said. “We are all judged on merit – not race or gender or anything like that. There’s opportunity here – you just have to put in the work.”
Casto’s husband, Steve, is a sergeant at the department. This creates a great understanding within their household, she said, as both are accustomed to the rigors of the career.
When asked how it felt to now outrank her husband, Casto laughed.
“Only at work. He’s still the brains behind the operation at home.”
760The 2015-16 Fresno budget calls for 760 sworn officers by June.
Dyer read short biographies and praised all of the promoted officers, but he heaped special attention on Sgt. Andre Benson.
“We’ll never know the (number of) shootings and homicides prevented by that man,” Dyer said.
Benson is one of 43 African-Americans in the department’s sworn ranks. He does a lot of outreach work in Fresno’s impoverished and troubled neighborhoods as part of a department program to prevent things like gang violence before they happen.
Benson, a U.S. Army veteran who has been with the department for 19 years, said this work will continue to be a priority for him.
Although this was a great day for the department, Dyer said, Fresno police will need a few more like it to rebuild their ranks. It will need to hire 145 more officers to return to 2008 levels.
Those currently in uniform are dealing with increased challenges such as homelessness, mental illness and higher crime levels, Dyer said.
However, the department won’t rush it.
“We want the right people,” Dyer said. “You can tell by the information we read off that we hired and promoted the right people today.
“It may take a little longer, but we’ll find them.”
Promotions, additions to Fresno Police Department
Dispatcher: Lanique Phillips
Cadets: Chad Alcorn, Asencion Conchas, Flor Garza, Naomi Gonzalez, Ryan Hudec, Briana Leon, Jody McBeth, Jason McIntyre, Michael Ortega and Vincent Vuola
Officer recruits: Nicholas Alvarado, Jose Garcia Arellano, Andres Barragan, Scott Gray, Jason Hendersen, Cynthia Herrera, Nolan Hunt, Kevin Jones, Martin Padilla, Christopher Perry, Anthony Rodriguez, John Reyes-Wells, Lewis Yang
Lateral officers: Matthew Ames, John Echaniz, Tom Hemker, Ger Vang
Sergeants: Andre Benson, Mike Gebhart, Robert Gonzales, James Rossetti, Todd Turney and Ray Villalvazo
Lieutenants: Joe Alvarez, Mindy Casto, Ron Hughes, David Ramos
K-9s: The two dogs added to the K-9 unit were Gunner and Jax.