Exactly two years from today – Oct. 16, 2019 – the Jerry Dyer era in Fresno law enforcement must come to an end.
Then again, maybe it won’t.
Dyer became Fresno’s police chief on Aug. 1, 2001. According to his most recent contract (effective Jan. 11, 2017 and posted on the City Clerk’s website), the deal “shall continue until the (City) Manager elects to terminate Employee’s employment or upon Employee’s resignation, but in any event not later than October 16, 2019.”
Why Oct. 16, 2019? Because Dyer, like many long-serving city employees, is in the Deferred Retirement Option Program. DROP, as it’s called, has a time limit – 10 years. Dyer hits the deadline in two years.
Dyer, 58, has been a Fresno cop for nearly 40 years. I think only Hank Morton has served longer at the helm of the Police Department.
With that kind of longevity as a sworn officer, a mere two years means it’s time to start a short-timers’ calendar counting down the days.
“Don’t talk like that,” Dyer told me (with a smile) after last week’s Crime View news conference at police headquarters.
“I haven’t thought as much about the end date as I have about what I’d like to accomplish between now and the end date,” Dyer said. “Like opening up the Southeast District station. And opening up a Northwest District station, which we’re going to do this year. Then there’s what we want to do in terms of our crime-fighting efforts. And we’re still doing a little bit of rebuilding with our traffic unit.
“I’ve been focused more on trying to accomplish as much as I can while I’m here. Then, at some point in time, I’m sure that date will creep up on me and I’ll realize that the end is near. Then I’ll have a conversation with my wife and make a decision as to what we’re going to do at that point.”
I suggested that his second conversation as Oct. 16, 2019 creeps up on everyone might be with City Manager Wilma Quan-Schecter and Mayor Lee Brand.
My point: It’s not unheard of for City Hall to bring service-providers on board as independent contractors. John Doe signs a deal. The deal identifies a specific length of time, the range of duties and a salary. When the time is up, the two sides might decide Mr. Doe deserves to another term. Or, Mr. Doe rides off into the sunset.
Might not that be a way for Dyer to stay in the Chief’s office beyond Oct. 16, 2019?
“I will tell you – it’s been very rewarding to work in the City of Fresno in every administration, and this administration is exceptional as well,” Dyer said. “Mayor Brand, City Manager Wilma Quan-Schecter, they are easy to work for. They are very supportive of us – which will probably make that decision at some point in time when I do leave more of a difficult decision. Because they are so good to work for. I’m sure we’ll be having conversations between now and then.”
Of course, no person is indispensable. Still, a case can be made that Fresno might be best served if Dyer stayed as chief for, say, another five years rather than 24 months. For example, the roster of sworn officers is expected to expand from about 800 to 1,000 during the Lee Brand era. Effectively deploying a 25% increase in personnel is not an easy task. There will be political as well as operational challenges to meet.
Dyer has 16 years of experience in the hot seat.
“I’ve been a part of building the department and, unfortunately, downsizing the department,” Dyer said. “Now we’re rebuilding again. There’s a lot to that, and I would certainly make myself available to the Administration throughout that process. I want to do what is beneficial to this community and to the department and certainly to our Administration.”
I again raised the “independent contractor” angle.
“There’s always that potential,” Dyer said. “But there’s always, you know, the thought of giving someone else the opportunity to lead. We have some really good people in this department that I’ve had the privilege of promoting that someday will make really good police chiefs. I’m confident of that.”
The money as Fresno’s top cop isn’t bad. Dyer’s annual salary through Oct. 16, 2019 will be $207,053.84.