What should Fresno’s next police chief know? Residents have a lot to share

Fresno Police Chief on death penalty

Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer comments on Governor Newsom's decision to halt death penalty executions in California.
Up Next
Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer comments on Governor Newsom's decision to halt death penalty executions in California.

Southwest Fresno residents hope the next police chief will prioritize the most vulnerable populations in the city — the homeless and children.

Dozens of residents attended a community meeting at Gaston Middle School on Thursday night. Mayor Lee Brand hosted the meeting seeking residents’ input on the search for a new police chief. The meeting was moderated by Pastors D.J. Criner from Saint Rest Baptist Church, B.T. Lewis of Rising Star Missionary Baptist Church and Paul Binion of Westside Church of God.

Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer retires in October.

“The chief of police is extremely important and will affect the lives of everybody in this room,” Brand said. “But every person has the right and option to weigh in on who we finally select.

“…I realize there’ve been inequities and injustices. I can’t do everything overnight, but I’ll do the best I can as long as I’m mayor to make sure there’s equal justice for the entire community,” Brand said.

The attendees broke into small groups to answer four questions:

1. What are the challenges in the city that you would like the new police chief to address?

2. What issues facing the city should the new police chief be aware of and address?

3. What qualities are most important to look for in the next police chief?

4. Is there anything else the city manager should consider when selecting the next police chief?

Residents said they hope the next police chief won’t criminalize the homeless and will build trust in young people instead of contributing to the school-to-prison pipeline.

Other topics that repeatedly arose were racial bias, excessive force and transparency.

Another message was loud and clear: Residents don’t want the next police chief to give political endorsements.

Debbie Darden, who spoke on behalf of one group, said the new police chief should “understand the impact of the ‘Tale of Two Cities,’ the north versus south as it relates to fair treatment and police brutality.”

Kimberly McCoy, with Building Healthy Communities, said she’d like to see a representative from the city-hired recruiting firm Teri Black & Company, LLC attend the meetings.

City leaders assured residents the search firm was watching video of the meetings and taking into consideration comments that were submitted.

There are two community meetings left: 6 p.m. Tuesday at Fresno High School and 6 p.m. Thursday at Hoover High School.

Until the end of May residents also can fill out an online survey available in English, Spanish and Hmong.

The recruitment period opened May 1 and closes June 15. Panel interviews will conclude July 31.

In August, the city manager will interview finalists and extend a conditional offer of employment. That’s when a background check will be done and the new police chief’s start date will be determined.

Related stories from Fresno Bee

Brianna Calix covers politics and investigations for The Bee, where she works to hold public officials accountable and shine a light on issues that deeply affect residents’ lives. She previously worked for The Bee’s sister paper, the Merced Sun-Star, and earned her bachelor’s degree from Fresno State.