Political Notebook

‘Attack on police.’ ‘Criminalizing their job.’ That’s what Fresno leaders say this plan will do

A pair of legislative bills penned in the aftermath of the controversial shooting of Stephan Clark were the subject of debate at Fresno City Hall on Thursday.

Up until a few days ago, Assembly Bill 392 and Senate Bill 230 were largely viewed as competing proposals. Supported by civil rights groups and activists, AB 392 would raise the legal standard for police to use deadly force. SB 230, backed by police unions, would enhance training for police officers.

Legislators in Sacramento this week axed the most controversial provisions on SB 230 and linked it to AB 392, meaning SB 230 will be obsolete unless AB 392 moves forward.

Despite those latest developments, Fresno City Council on Thursday voted 6-0 for a resolution supporting the police union-backed SB 230, while opposing AB 392.

Fresno City Councilmember Garry Bredefeld, who penned the resolution, called AB 392 an “attack on police” that “criminalizes (their) job.”

“I see, frankly, AB 392 as another attack on our police, which is all too common,” he said. “SB 230 would establish the most comprehensive use-of-force police policies and guidelines in the nation.”

Bredefeld said AB 392 will cause officers to hold back from using force and give criminals “carte blanche,” encouraging them to flee police, disobey commands and victimize communities.

“Instead, cops in law enforcement agencies will be forced to decide how to do their jobs with monetary risks and criminal prosecution guiding their thinking instead of the best way to defend communities from wrong doers.”

Andy Levine, with Faith in the Valley, called the council vote “bizarre,” considering SB 230 is dead without passage of AB 392. Whether it was intentional or not, he said, Thursday’s debate was a step toward the mayor, city manager and city council providing more oversight in policing.

“It comes at just the right time, as our whole community weighs in on the critical importance of selecting our next police chief,” he said.

Religious leaders with Faith in the Valley earlier this month penned a letter to legislators in Sacramento urging them to withdraw support for SB 230 and instead support AB 392.

“AB 392 is a sensible and long-overdue step towards ensuring that all of us — officers and civilians — can make it home safely, and also be held accountable for our actions and responsibility to protect and respect one another,” the letter said.

During Thursday’s meeting, both Police Chief Jerry Dyer and the first vice president of Fresno Police Officers Association criticized AB 392, saying it’s wrong to punish an officer for making a split-second decision while expecting them to “know the unknown” and “see the unseen.”

Aaron Foster, an organizer with Faith in the Valley - Fresno, said he doesn’t think either bill is about an officer making a split-second decision. “I think what’s bigger is the people that are killed unjustly — that the police are held accountable,” he said.

Councilmember Luis Chavez, who represents District 5 in southeast Fresno, said the heart of the issue tackled by the bills lies far from Sacramento.

“That’s building the trust between under-served communities and our law enforcement folks,” he said. “There’s no doubt that the city of Fresno needs to do a lot more work.”

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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.