As president of the Fresno Police Officers Association, I represent the 1,100-plus men and women who serve and protect, or have served and protected, the citizens of Fresno.
The morning of Oct. 24, 2019 started like any other. Before heading to work, I reviewed emails and news stories about what occurred overnight. One such story, a commentary written by Marek Warszawski and published in The Fresno Bee titled “Fresno police gunned down an unarmed teenager from behind. Are we OK with this?” obviously caught my attention. After reading it, I sat there contemplating two responses: ignore the ignorance of the opinions he expressed, or reply with fact and what 34 years in law enforcement experience brings.
I also thought about Warszawski’s anti-Jerry Dyer mindset and wondered if this was just another anti-Dyer hit piece. I concluded that I needed to respond to support an honored member of the Fresno Police Officers Association who was involved in a critical incident, and the man running for mayor, also an honored and well respected member of the Fresno Police Officers Association and our former police chief.
After making the decision to respond, one of my first thoughts about the article was that Warszawski is basing his opinion on a video without all the facts. His commentary was reckless and only aimed to inflame public emotions. Luckily, level heads at the District Attorney’s Office, and not “some independent review board,” reviewed all the facts and concluded the use of force was lawful. Let that sink in: Lawful, and not just within department policy, like he misleadingly suggests. In my experience, violent, dangerous, antisocial criminals don’t obey authority and don’t willingly submit to arrest.
Interestingly enough, Warszawski accuses officers of “brutal behavior,” but never once mentions the brutal act these suspects inflicted on their murder victim. He again downplays their behavior and doesn’t call it like it is — murder — but instead describes it as a “shooting death.”
Later in his commentary, Warszawski implies that officers should have simply obtained an arrest warrant and not made the “high-risk” traffic stop, insinuating the officers escalated the situation. However, let’s say they had obtained the warrant. What would have changed? Nothing. That suspect would’ve fled and the outcome would have been the same.
Police officers aren’t perfect. We are human beings trying to deal with society’s ills and those in our community who victimize our most vulnerable. On top of that add an epidemic of substance abuse with a mixture of mental illness, and really bad things happen, things most in our community don’t want to see, let alone even think occur.
The police sergeant involved in this incident is a highly regarded and respected individual who has served many years caring for the victimized and arresting the worst of the worst that roam amongst us. He performs his job like all of the other Fresno police officers who serve this community. To describe them as “thugs with badges” slanders them and diminishes all the good work they do keeping us all safe.
In closing, I would like to see Warszawski go on at least one ride-along and look in the faces of those men and women you’re sitting next to and tell them how you really feel about how they are performing their jobs. Go out there and learn what it’s like to have to make split-second decisions in a volatile situation with people who are acting irrationally. And then I dare you to call them “thugs with badges” to their faces.
But as I would suspect, you wouldn’t have the courage to do so. Instead you’d rather sit behind your keyboard in your safe space looking down your nose, playing the ultimate game of Monday morning quarterback on your computer.
Todd Fraizer is president of the Fresno Police Officers Association