The Fresno Police Department has challenges to overcome to recruit over 100 officers in 18 months to meet city goals, according to a report by the Fresno Bee.
One of those challenges, according to Chief Dyer, is public scrutiny.
As a result of highly publicized uprisings against killer cops in Baltimore; Ferguson, Missouri; and New York City, police are under more scrutiny now than ever before.
Dyer’s plan to attract recruits is to offer a $10,000 signing bonus to veteran officers and overhaul the department’s image.
Dyer said he believes creating a positive perception of Fresno police will inspire others to become cops.
“I just had a meeting with all of my sergeants, and I told them the best way to counter negativity is by marketing better both inside and outside the department,” he said.
He says he hopes to use Fresno’s crime-ridden reputation as a recruitment tool for officers seeking adventure and excitement.
Dyer added that he’s looking for cops that do not agree with California law.
“Unfortunately, we live in a society that believes that marijuana and other drugs are OK,” Dyer said. “California decriminalized things like possession with Prop. 47, but we want officers who don’t agree with this idea.”
One recruit is Anthony Tafoya, 30, who the police department signed up months before his graduation from the Police Academy.
Tafoya completed the academy in 2007, but failed his psychological examination. He lacked maturity.
He joined the Navy, instead.
“I always want the biggest challenge in everything I do, so I enrolled in Navy Seal training,” he said.
Tafoya caught pneumonia three weeks into training and quit.
He served the remainder of his enlistment in Virginia and returned to Fresno last year. Although seven years had passed since he graduated from the academy, he still wanted to be a cop, but he had to repeat the academy. He re-enrolled in January and graduated on June 26.
Tafoya noticed a change in the Fresno Police Department’s recruitment practices.
“They told me to apply in the first week of the academy,” he said. “It went really fast this time around. Within two months, I was done with the application process.”
The department also paid him as a cadet, even though he wasn’t actually an employee doing any work for the police department.
Dyer elaborated on this policy saying it’s for academy students who may not be able to pursue their career in law enforcement because they have a family to support; the department pays them around $17 an hour.
A concern for Tafoya was the increasingly transparent world of modern policing.
“Right now, there’s a lot of pressure. Body cams are a big deal at the academy. I just think that if officers are doing the right thing, they should have no problems.”
Greg Torres, who has been a cop in Fresno for 37 years, said his biggest concern with modern policing is cell phone videos destroying cop careers.
“Surveillance cameras are fine, because I know I am operating within the parameters of the law,” he said. “They may even help me prove my case or settle an allegation against me.
“But as these cellphones came out, a 15-second video of an officer doing his job became an evaluation tool,” he continued. “That’s the very stressful part — people will judge you based on 15 seconds.”
“We used to feel protected by cameras, but now public opinion and quick decisions by city government can put you on the hot seat,” he said.
“It’s a dark cloud that wears on you emotionally.”
Some applicants, Dyer said, are simply turned off by the national media focus on police brutality.