Does the Fresno Police Department Really Focus on Relationship Building?

Jerry DyerFresno Chief of Police, Jerry Dyer Laughing at a Young Child Eating a Snow Cone

In Fresno, police focus on building relationships, not making arrests“, is the original headline of an article published by Washington Post on May 7, accompanied with cheesy photos of the chief of police posing for selfies and laughing with children.

The first paragraph reads:

The toddler had just finished having his face painted bright red and white when he barreled toward Jerry Dyer, Fresno’s broad-shouldered chief of police. Dyer, his bald head reddening after several hours in the sun, bent to catch the boy.

“You having a good time?” Dyer asked with a smile, as the child’s mother whipped out a phone to take a photo. “When you get a little bigger, I want you to grow up to be a police officer.”

Tell me that doesn’t scream pro-cop propaganda bullshit.

At a time when other cities were aggressively arresting people for minor crimes, a strategy known as “zero tolerance,” officials in Fresno chose a different path. They embraced the softer community-policing ethos popularized under President Bill Clinton, which emphasizes partnerships and problem-solving instead of mass arrests.

Is this satire?

The Fresno Police Officers’ Association posted an enlightening statement on their Facebook page refuting the article:

The title should be “Fresno police focus on building relationships, not making arrests, Fact or Fiction?” I love the theme of the news article, and support community base policing 100%. I just wish it was really the practice vs. just being preached at the Fresno Police Department. Like clock work everyday, every patrol officer, on each patrol shift receives a message on their patrol car computer thirty to forty minutes before the end of their shift requesting their stats for the day. The question to ask is why? Patrol officers stats are captured every day by the computer already with clearance codes and by the information recorded in their police reports. Why the duplication you ask? If you asked the officers why, they would tell you it is because the department is sending them a clear message. The message is; your arrest stats matter, in fact the officers believe they are all that matters. Most patrol officers would tell you the department emphasis is on arresting people and you will be evaluated based on your stats, parole searches, probation searches, and citations issued. It would be a very good thing if the patrol officers believed they were evaluated on how often they had positive contacts with the community or the quality of their contact with citizens. For years I have requested the department stop asking officers to produce stats they already have documented via the computer or in a police reports and really encourage community based policing and quality community contacts. I believe Chief Dyer believes in Community Based Policing and even wants officers to do it. Unfortunately their [sic] is a disconnect, and despite years of constant reminders to Chief Dyer the philosophy has not changed.

Jerry "Selfie" Dyer

Jerry “Selfie” Dyer

This isn’t a minor discrepancy.  According to the FPOA, “all that matters” at the Fresno Police Department is arresting people.

“…the department emphasis is on arresting people and you will be evaluated based on your stats, parole searches, probation searches, and citations issued.

It was a nice story, but there’s more to community policing than publicity stunts.

Fresno police officers that wish to be community oriented cops: stop reporting the stats.  You can make the story a reality, or it can be another fictional PR ruse touting your “broad-shouldered” boss man.  You decide.

Although the whole premise of the article is false, that didn’t strike me as the most disingenuous part:

In Fresno, police say they are fully committed. And city officials insist community policing has made the streets safer while improving perceptions of police legitimacy.

“We didn’t have protests in Fresno last August, and September and October. And that’s not by accident,” said Mayor Ashley Swearengin. “It’s because there has been such consistent and constant work between law enforcement and the community.”

The Mayor, apparently, doesn’t watch the news or know what’s going on in her own office.  In June of 2014, following the shooting death of Martin Figueroa, protesters rallied outside of City Hall for weeks and even barged into the Mayors office on one occasion.  Surviving family members and community representatives met with Dyer and the City Manager, Bruce Rudd, about reducing police homicides.

Later in the year there were regular protests, again, against the Fresno Police Department.   November through December, protests prompted by the Ferguson grand jury were in headlines on multiple occasions.  Dyer insisted in the media that protests weren’t related to Fresno, but that wasn’t true either as many of the protesters were survivors of FPD violence and their grievances were with local law enforcement.

“We believe that similar conditions exist in Fresno … as in Ferguson,” said Andy Levine with Faith in Community at a Ferguson vigil in November.

Swearengin’s comments aren’t entirely false though, the three months she mentions were slow.

However, in March of this year, there was a demonstration at the Federal Building after the deputy chief of police was arrested for selling heroin.  Longer story short, protests against FPD are a regular occurrence in Fresno and the Mayor is full of shit.

How could Washington Post get it so wrong?  Because they went to a police sponsored event and based their story on what city officials told them.

Maybe the next time some guy randomly decides to come to Fresno from D.C. to write a story, he shouldn’t buy everything he’s told by liars at face value.  Or perhaps, that was the agenda all along.