Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer on Wednesday outlined his plans for curtailing gang violence in the aftermath of Mayor Lee Brand’s veto of a city council initiative to prevent gang shootings.
Brand’s veto set the mayor at odds with a majority of city council members, who voted 3-2 in June to direct his administration to meet with community leaders, roll out the Advance Peace program, or another option, to address gun violence. The effort would have been partially funded with $200,000 from city coffers.
Dyer, who has announced his candidacy to replace the outgoing mayor, has said he supports the concept but thinks it should be funded entirely through private money, because he is “philosophically opposed to providing money to gang members.”
Advance Peace is a fellowship and mentorship program for gang members deemed most likely to commit gun crimes. It is supported by Faith in the Valley-Fresno and other community advocacy groups. Local critics oppose the program because after completing certain criteria and sticking with the program for six months, participants receive a stipend.
As an alternative, Dyer said he wanted “evidence-based” programs, and cited the department’s “Cease-Fire” program, which brings together gang members police believe are most likely to commit a shooting with police and prosecutors to offer them lifestyle alternatives.
The chief conceded, however, that more lenient state laws may be limiting the ability to compel gang members to participate. He also said local outreach programs, including the Fresno Street Saints, can be effective.
Dyer also defended the department tactic of sending extra officers onto the streets in the wake of a gang shooting to prevent retaliation.
He said people in neighborhoods where gang violence has erupted “demand that,” and that officers treat them with “dignity and respect.
“We’re going to continue to do that, and we won’t make an apology to anyone,” he added.