Inside the Fresno Convention Center on Saturday, nearly 800 people gathered to honor Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer for his 15 years of service as Fresno’s top cop.
The black-tie event inside filled the hall with a “who’s who” of Fresno. The crowd included mayors both current and former, as well as mayoral hopefuls.
Fresno City Council members were in attendance, including mayoral candidate Lee Brand. His opponent, Fresno County Supervisor Henry Perea, also was on hand.
Meanwhile, 60 people gathered outside the convention center with protest signs to demand justice for Dylan Noble – an unarmed young man who was shot and killed by Fresno police in June – and to protest the gala honoring Dyer.
But their presence was not acknowledged by those inside the convention center.
It is easy to kid Chief Dyer, but on the other hand it’s difficult to fully describe just what he’s meant for the city of Fresno.
Mayor Ashley Swearengin
Recognizable local figures were all over the hall, including members of the Fresno Unified School District board and Fresno State football coach Tim DeRuyter.
Before the crowd filtered into their seats, Dyer walked the lobby to shake hands and take pictures with people.
Some speakers took the opportunity to roast their beloved police chief.
Mayor Ashley Swearengin told many jokes at Dyer’s expense, even joking that Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump called and told Dyer he is in front of the camera too much. But for Swearengin – who knew no chief other than Dyer over both her terms – it was clear she views him as a rock that Fresno needs.
“It is easy to kid Chief Dyer, but on the other hand it’s difficult to fully describe just what he’s meant for the city of Fresno,” Swearengin said. “There have certainly been some rough spots and more than a few tragedies during his time on the force, but through it all Chief Dyer has been steady. He’s been reassuring, professional, thorough, quick to listen and quick to take action on behalf of the residents of Fresno who he loves so much.”
Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp joked that Dyer is intimidated by her because she is taller than he is. As a gift to Dyer, Smittcamp gave him the high heels she was wearing and posed for a picture with him.
But on a more serious note, she thanked Dyer for what he had taught her in her 15 months as Fresno County’s DA.
“You handle the most difficult and sensitive matters with grace and integrity, always remaining true to the one principle that matters most – doing what’s honorable and what’s just,” Smittcamp said.
Former Fresno Mayor Alan Autry spoke about Dyer – who he promoted to chief.
Autry told stories about him and Dyer from years back and even read a poem he had written called “The Ballad of Jerry Dyer.”
You handle the most difficult and sensitive matters with grace and integrity, always remaining true to the one principle that matters most – doing what’s honorable and what’s just.
Lisa Smittcamp, district attorney
Rodney Lowery, executive director of the Fresno Police Chaplaincy, said he admired Dyer’s work ethic and integrity. “I love you like a brother,” he said.
And Westside Church of God’s Rev. Paul Binion led a prayer of the room and said, “Thank the Lord for Jerry Dyer.”
Fresno City Council Vice President Sal Quintero presented Dyer with a proclamation declaring Saturday as “Chief Jerry Dyer Day.” Congressman Jim Costa said a few words before presenting Dyer with a Congressional Resolution for his dedication to Fresno – a resolution that required universal support from congressional leaders, which these days is “no small task,” Costa said.
Dyer took to the stage and playfully did a little roasting of his own of his friends and colleagues, but he also spoke passionately of Fresno and its many possibilities.
“We’ve gone through a lot in law enforcement in the last few years – especially the last 18 months, and I don’t anticipate that is going to go away anytime soon,” Dyer said.
He praised programs the department has started that attempt to build relationships between police and the community.
He also spoke to the person in the room most important to him – his wife of 36 years, Diane.
We’ve gone through a lot in law enforcement in the last few years – especially the last 18 months, and I don’t anticipate that is going to go away anytime soon.
“It takes a special kind of person to be the wife of a police chief or a public official,” he said. “You work long hours. In the role of policing, we get called quite a bit … or we get called away from dinner or have to come home early from vacation or a trip. My wife has always been there for me – always been there to encourage me.”
The event also was a fundraiser for the Chaplaincy’s STEALTH program. The program aims to help troubled youths to get back on the right track before their lives are ruined by drug use, falling into gangs or prostitution.
Lowery said it means a lot to look at the hard work the program has done and be able to say “we saved one.”