Valley Voices

Here is what to ask applicants who want to be Fresno’s next police chief

Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer will retire in October.
Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer will retire in October. Fresno Bee file

After 40 years as a Fresno police officer, and the last 18 as chief, Jerry Dyer will retire later this year amid much departing fanfare. And rightfully so.

It was a different atmosphere during the mid-1970s when Fresno’s then police chief served almost the same length of time, but was in frequent conflicts, and left unceremoniously through the back door. Dyer’s retirement is a completely different story. He, with his highly recognizable Rambo style toward law breakers, and slick-shaved head, will leave through the front door with the roar of grateful applause still ringing in his ear.

Who will fill those shoes? What barber shop will rejoice? What building at Hoover High School will be renamed? According to a recent Bee article, such as the one on March 11, some residents want citizen participation as a part of the screening and selection process for the next chief. They want candidates for the job to respond to various questions that may, or may not, be of special interest to their particular neighborhood or community needs.

Elvin C. Bell Fresno Bee file

As one who played a role in the appointment of six city managers and five police chiefs during four terms as mayor pro tem, I offer a few suggestions to those who are wondering what kind of questions they should ask the job seekers.

First of all, we should anticipate that contenders for this highest level of municipal law enforcement are going to be well rehearsed and coached by their hired human resource specialists, psychologists and body language authorities. The applicants will have in their memory banks certain comments and phrases, and Fresno-friendly catchwords that would probably carry them to the second or third appearance if the process was done in a “Jeopardy” style TV game show. But this is not a game or a personality show. The candidates should be required to answer hard, specific Fresno-oriented questions that will be recorded for subsequent study and analysis by the hiring authority. So let’s start with a few questions.

Begin with what may well be the most important question of all. “What makes you the most qualified person for this job?” That first question is asked with a pleasant smile, but it is not intended to seek a pleasant answer.

Follow-up with this query: “What plans do you have to connect in a positive way with the diverse neighborhoods in Fresno?” The response will clearly demonstrate their knowledge of Fresno because at this stage in the process they should have spent several days or weeks on reconnaissance missions throughout our huge geographic area. Their answer will also provide a clear picture of their homework, preparation and knowledge, or lack thereof, of Fresno’s diversity, strength, history, economy, growth patterns, community peculiarities and schools.

Here are a few more questions. “What is your law enforcement experience in dealing with drug and sex trafficking? What do you think is the biggest need for Fresno? Discuss your philosophy of discipline and accountability. Tell us about a time when a member of your team did not handle a situation properly and how you assisted to bring perspective.

“What would your first 90 days as chief of police in Fresno look like? Please name some community betterments in which you have contributed that demonstrate selflessness, compassion and care for others. What drives your enthusiasm for what you do in a community? What community outreach programs have you been a part of, and do you plan to do the same in Fresno? How do you build trusted relationships? What experience do you have with working toward creative solutions to preserve unity and good-will among fellow citizens in different neighborhoods?”

Elvin C. Bell of Fresno served 16 years in elected public office. He also served three assignments in the White House and a four-year tour in the Pentagon. He is a retired Air Force colonel and the author of 14 books. His new book, “Leave Well Enough Alone,” is due out in June.