Fresno mayor fails to hire new permanent police chief, councilmember says

Fresno Mayor Lee Brand on Friday will appoint an interim police chief from within the department after he failed to hire a permanent chief to replace Jerry Dyer, a city councilmember said.

Dyer is retiring in October. He’s also running for mayor.

Councilmember Miguel Arias told The Bee the interim chief will be someone who did not apply for the permanent position. Two other sources who have knowledge of the search but spoke on condition of anonymity confirmed an interim chief would be appointed. The identity of the interim appointee could not immediately be confirmed.

Arias told The Bee that Brand’s failure to find a permanent chief shows a lack of leadership.

“Mayor Brand’s decision to go with more of the same and pass the buck is not what our city deserves. It only makes it painfully clear that community leaders were correct in their skepticism about the police chief hiring process,” Arias said. “Hundreds of young people, parents, educators and community leaders wasted months of their valuable time, only to end up with (the) status quo. I didn’t want to believe it, but we were lied to.”

Brand said the decision on the next police chief will be announced during a news conference Friday.

“Once again, Councilmember Arias is more interested in sound bites than sound decisions,” Brand said. “I stand by our process.”

Earlier this year, Brand’s administration recruited applicants for the job and solicited feedback from the community in an online survey and through community meetings on qualities residents would like to see in the next chief.

Arias said the city needs a full-time police chief to tackle issues such as use of force, lawsuits and delayed response times to 911 calls.

“Anything less will continue to expose our city to more crime, financial liability, and erode the department’s credibility,” he said.

Councilmember Nelson Esparza said the city needs strong leadership and a fresh start.

“I’m disappointed to learn that mediocrity is going to prevail in this search process. This is arguably the single most consequential decision the mayor’s administration will make during his one term, and they’ve let our community down,” he said. “The council has traditionally respected the mayor’s authority to unilaterally select the next chief of police, but going forward I think you’re going to see some of us take on a more proactive role in influencing the process.

A representative for nonprofit Faith in the Valley, Andy Levine reacted to the news Thursday. The nonprofit has pushed for more transparency in the search process.

“At the very least, we would ask the mayor to release the community panelists of the confidentiality agreements they were required to sign so that we can hear from others who were also in the room what they think of this decision,” he said.

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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.