City Beat

PD stops one of two IA investigations of Keith Foster

One of the Fresno Police Department’s two Internal Affairs investigations into the Keith Foster situation has been suspended, but the other is going full speed ahead, Chief Jerry Dyer said Friday afternoon.

Foster is the former deputy police chief who has been indicted by a federal grand jury on a variety of drug-trafficking offenses. He has pleaded not guilty. Six others are facing various charges.

Foster has been free since soon after his arrest. Four defendants are still behind bars.

Dyer said his IA unit began an investigation of Foster as a Police Department employee soon after Foster was arrested by federal agents on March 26. Such an investigation of any sworn officer is routine when there is a possibility of wrong-doing or misbehavior, Dyer said. Such an investigation helps city officials determine what steps, if any, to take with the employee.

Foster recently resigned from the department and is no longer a city employee. The event rendered this particular IA investigation irrelevant, Dyer said.

However, Dyer said, the IA unit continues to investigate precisely the what, why and how of the alleged Foster events. The mission is to determine whether the Police Department needs change.

“We want to make sure we have as many facts as possible before we have a list of recommendations and policies,” Dyer said.

All of this suggests things remain hectic in the wake of an arrest that by all accounts is a disaster for City Hall. Foster, after all, was the city’s No. 2 cop. The trafficking charges against him involve marijuana, oxycodone and heroin.

City officials on Friday said they expect to release police auditor Rick Rasmussen’s first-quarter report next week. They said the report will include a review of the Foster situation.

Dyer said Friday the IA unit’s ongoing investigation won’t be finished by next week. Dyer didn’t say when he expects the IA report to be sent to City Manager Bruce Rudd. However, Dyer emphasized that the investigation and report wouldn’t be rushed in such a manner that subsequent events might force the department to repair the repairs.

There lies a challenge for city officials.

Mayor Ashley Swearengin, City Manager Bruce Rudd and Dyer promised at a news conference on March 27 that City Hall would dig quickly and thoroughly into the Foster issue, then report back to the public.

But the person who knows best what happened -- the 51-year-old Foster himself -- is now pretty much alone and fighting to stay out of prison for the next 20 or 30 years. As Dyer noted on Friday, Foster isn’t talking to police.

It’s unclear how much information the FBI is sharing with the Police Department or other city officials. The police and other city officials knew nothing of the federal investigation of Foster until after Foster was arrested 15 days ago.

A trial of Foster in federal court is probably months away and could go in any number of directions. There’s no telling what information might emerge in court that blows out of the water a bunch of ballyhooed Police Department recommendations/policy changes made in spring 2015 by city officials in a hurry to quell public frustration.

Dyer isn’t worried that reports on the Foster situation from police auditor Rasmussen and the IA unit will be contradictory in any way.

“I think they’ll support each other,” Dyer said.