A faith-based advocacy group is calling on Fresno Mayor Lee Brand to fulfill a campaign promise and engage the community in the search for Fresno’s new police chief.
At a 2016 forum for mayoral candidates, Brand committed to involve Faith in the Valley in the process of finding the new police chief and to engage with community members to hear what they wanted in the city’s next top cop, advocates said.
“When candidates are running, they say a lot of things,” said Marcel Woodruff, a community organizer with Faith in the Valley. “It’s important to remind them of the things they said. It’s important to remind the mayor that he said ‘Hey, I’m going to keep community members involved.’ It’s important to stay true to that.”
As early as October 2018, city officials solicited proposals from recruitment firms to assist in the search for Chief Jerry Dyer’s successor.
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The Bee obtained a copy of a proposal for up to $30,000 with Torrance-based Teri Black & Company, LLC. Since the proposed contract value is under $50,000, it wouldn’t require city council approval. The firm does not currently list Fresno’s police chief search on its website for current or upcoming recruitments.
City officials confirmed a number of recruitment firms were contacted, but no contract has been finalized.
Dyer’s time as chief will come to a close in October.
Brand said the process to select the next chief hasn’t begun and he doubled down on his promise to engage the community.
“We could not begin our search until we knew the exact date of Jerry’s retirement. Now that we have the official date, we are beginning the process,” the mayor said in a statement to The Bee. “I would also say there is a distinct difference between the national search and the process by which we will select the next Fresno police chief.”
Brand said he expects a recruitment firm will be hired shortly.
“Once that is complete, we will unveil to the (city) council and publicly discuss our plans for developing a selection process that will have community engagement on a scale and magnitude never before seen in the Central Valley.”
Woodruff said the mayor has yet to consult Faith in the Valley, and the group hoped to be involved much earlier in the process.
“It does feel like there’s an intentional ‘under-the-radar’ element of it,” Woodruff said. “It felt as if the community was going to be part of the process, we’d be coming in really late in the game. That was discouraging.”
Dyer agreed with the mayor in that it’s early in the process to engage with the public.
Woodruff said Faith in the Valley and other community members hope the next police chief has experience with community policing and is open to working with groups such as Advance Peace, which works to end gun violence in urban neighborhoods.
Efrain Botello, 21, a member of the Fresno Boys and Men of Color group, previously served on a youth advisory council for the police department and Dyer, but he said the group fizzled out. Moving forward, he’d like to see young people from southeast and southwest Fresno involved in the conversations about the next chief and policing practices. Those are the neighborhoods with the highest police presence, he said.
“Getting a young person at the table in the search for a new chief would speak volumes about the city,” Botello said.
Dyer said there are captains and deputy chiefs currently working for Fresno Police Department who would be viable candidates. “However, I do know it’s the desire of the city manager and mayor to see what other candidates outside of Fresno Police Department may be interested so that they, too, can be looked at in comparison to what we have in our department,” he said.
“What I do know is that we have an incredible group of staff officers in this department that are highly talented and would make outstanding police chiefs, whether in Fresno or somewhere else,” he said. “I hope they are given the opportunity to be looked at.”