Fresno police Chief Jerry Dyer ended an extended exploration of a mayoral run – and speculation in political circles that accompanied it – when he said via a Friday email to The Bee that he would not seek the city’s top office.
“I did my due diligence,” Dyer said in a subsequent interview. “I met with a lot of people. I spent a lot of time in prayer, a lot of time talking about this with my family and my wife. I really at one point was very serious about running. It was a very painful process searching to see where I could best serve the city.”
Dyer said his wife and family supported a campaign, and he was prepared to move from his county residence into Fresno, which is a requirement to hold city office.
In the end, Dyer thought he would be more effective as chief than mayor, he said.
“As the mayor, I would have the ability to influence perhaps the overall philosophy of the organization, and ensuring resources – with obviously the support of the council – were provided to the Police Department, but I wouldn’t have that direct involvement as to how those resources are utilized and how we can improve the quality of life in many of these neighborhoods that I believe need to be improved,” he said. “So I’m convinced this is where I need to be.”
If Dyer had run, he would have been formidable. He has been police chief since July 2001, and is well known to voters due to massive media exposure leading the high-profile department. He also is chief at a time of increasing worries over personal safety for average citizens.
Instead, Dyer wants to stay as chief for an additional three years and 10 months. That is when he reaches the end of his eligibility in the city’s Deferred Retirement Option Program, also known as DROP.
With Mayor Ashley Swearengin reaching her term limit in December 2016, Dyer’s timeline also would be close to three years into the next mayor’s first term. So while Dyer wants to stay as chief, the next mayor would ultimately decide whether to keep him on.
Thus far the only declared mayoral candidates are two-term Fresno City Council Member Lee Brand, who represents the city’s northeastern district, and community activist and pastor H. Spees.
Brand committed Friday to keeping Dyer as chief.
“I would say I would keep Jerry Dyer as chief because I think he’s done a good job,” Brand said.
Spees said, “Jerry Dyer has been a great police chief for this city. If I am fortunate enough to be elected mayor, I will be taking a fresh look at every department. I look forward to sitting down with the chief in determining what is in the best interest of our city moving forward.”
Fresno County Supervisor Henry Perea isn’t a candidate, but to date has not ruled out a run. He told The Bee on Thursday that he is contemplating a campaign and expects to make a final decision in the next 30 days. Asked to weigh in on Dyer’s continued tenure as chief, he said in a text message that it “seems early for anyone to create the potential for uncertainty in our Police Department at a time when the chief needs to focus on creating new strategies to keep Fresno residents safe.”
Dyer considers all three candidates to be friends. It is unclear if he will endorse any candidate.
Looking ahead, Dyer said work remains to rebuild the department after it was decimated during the Great Recession.
Currently, there are 715 sworn officers in the city. In 2009, the number was 849. The goal at the end of the current fiscal year is 759 sworn officers; a planned federal grant would add 15 more.
“We then need to develop a long-term strategic plan that builds from that point,” Dyer said.
That would be part of his final time in office. His ultimate goal, he said, is to reach 1,000 sworn officers by December 2024. He also wants to rebuild the department’s roster of civilian employees, which endured more cuts than sworn officers during the recession.
“The fact that we are now at a point where we can rebuild the organization – I want to be a part of that,” Dyer said. “I think that, more than ever, we need a strong law enforcement leadership and that’s what I want to provide.”
Dyer’s other priority is to groom his replacement – a person he would like to see come from within the department’s ranks.
“I have, really, three years and 10 months left to be a part of rebuilding this organization, help influence the direction of the department and to build a successor between now and then,” he said.