Hey everyone. I’m moving my blog to a real wordpress template at www.burnfresno.com
So from now on go to www.burnfresno.com and I should have a redirect in shortly.
What exactly is going on with the Fresno Police Department lately? First there was the narcotics officers luring drug dealers to town in order to steal their cars, resulting in the Major Narcotics Unit being temporarily shut down. Then officers decided to issue an unwarranted beating on a homeless gentleman who had done nothing wrong. Now a 23 year old man was killed in a hail of 35 bullets after being confronted by police while pulling his handgun from his trunk after a day of target shooting.
To me it seems as if the Fresno Police Department no longer knows how to do actual police work. They also seem to have forgotten that their motto is “to protect and to serve”, as it’s been a long time since I’ve seen a cop from Fresno do either of these things. The modern Fresno Police Department has transformed itself into more of a business than a police department, which is quite obvious if you’ve driven much around Fresno. Officers on motorcycles line the streets (I’ve personally seen four of them within a couple hundred feet on Friant next to Woodward Lakes) issuing tickets for every traffic violation, no matter how minor, that they can muster up.
It’s no secret that Fresno can use all of the money it can get its hands on right now, but these problems need to be fixed the right way, not by giving motorcycle cops so much overtime that they make $100,000 per year. I understand being a police officer is a high risk job, but that’s a salary I would expect a tenured FBI agent to make, not a local traffic cop (who may not even see much crime at all).
It’s not surprising that nothing ever gets better within the department, with Jerry Dyer, the Chief of Police, being nothing more than a local celebrity and politician these days. It’s embarrassing to go to an event in Fresno and see Dyer and Mayor Ashley Swearengin parading in front of the press like they’re walking down the red carpet at the Oscars ( I witnessed this myself at the final day of filming for Extreme Home Makeover here in Fresno).
For the quality of work being produced right now by the department, we certainly shouldn’t be giving them as much money as they are receiving currently. The fleets and fleets of new police vehicles and toys are nothing but slap to the face of local taxpayers in a time when most citizens cannot afford much more than paying their bills.
Even with all the money that the FPD is getting these days, they can’t seem to produce quality officers through their training. In the recent shooting death of Steven Willis by the Fresno Police Department, he was shot at 35 times by two officers after pulling a pistol out of his trunk when returning home to his apartment. That means that the officers actually emptied their clips, reloaded, and continued firing. Steven was hit with 14 bullets, 3 of which hit him in the back. Either these officers are so afraid of the local citizens that they panicked and acted unbecoming of a police officer, or they were hit men killing their target. To shoot that many bullets at someone, let alone in a heavily populated apartment complex, is completely unnecessary and over the top. I would even go as far as to say that those officers posed more danger to the residents of that apartment complex than the criminals located in Fresno ever could.
There has been local calls for hiring someone to audit the FPD, but hiring someone to audit them is just the start. The entire department needs to be reformed from top to bottom, beginning with getting rid of Jerry Dyer. People need to be able to trust the police for them to do their job well, and right now in Fresno that just isn’t possible.
Yesterday, someone in Fresno did a very brave thing. Father Geoffrey Farrow of the Saint Paul Newman Center in Northeast Fresno spoke out against Proposition 8 (the bill defining marriage as between a man and a woman) and also admitted to being gay, not something that is easy to do in a town as conservative as Fresno. It is people like this who help lead the world on a path to a brighter and more progressive future. Father Farrow has been ordained for twenty-three years, a large part of his life, and will most likely be suspended from priesthood for choosing to voice his opinion in this matter. Unfortunately for him, the Catholic Church, which he is a part of, shares a different opinion and continues to seek legislation defining marriage as between a man and a woman.
Things this inspiring on a civil rights level don’t normally happen in Fresno, where bumper stickers endorsing Proposition 8 are plentiful in parking lots and on roads all over town. There’s no doubt about it, Fresno is stuck in the past in many ways, and this event will likely prove it in the coming days. One inspiring part about the story is that half of the congregation gave him a standing applause. It’s good to know some people respect his decision and bravery for being able to make such a statement. I have nothing but disgust for the people who did not applaud. They likely trusted in this man for their most personal of guidance for years, and just because he has announced his homosexuality his influence on their life is likely done for, it’s a shame really. I’d like to see Fresno embracing this man in a more positive way, but I just don’t find it likely. I can only hope that I am proven wrong.