Fresno

Concerns over leadership, progress rankle Fresno’s police reform panel

Three meetings in, and Fresno’s Commission on Police Reform – a body aimed at reforming police procedures – is still tinkering with its own procedures to generate such reforms.

The 37-member panel of community leaders, social justice activists, Fresno Police personnel, and a smattering of elected officials, met Monday to continue ironing out housekeeping items.

Among them: continued deliberations over the organization’s bylaws and the election of a vice chair to serve alongside former Fresno City Council member and former Fresno Police officer Oliver Baines III.

Through it all, sources with knowledge told The Sun that slight factions were being formed among commissioners, with social justice activists and Fresno Police representatives vying for sway.

One group that slowly lost its foothold in the Commission as of Monday was Fresno’s African American community, arguably the genesis point for the Commission’s formation due to the reinvigorated Black Lives Matter movement.

During the meeting, the commission elected Sandra Celedon – president of the nonprofit Fresno Building Healthy Communities – as its vice chair.

Commissioners were presented with three nominees for vice chair: former Fresno County Superior Court Judge Robert H. Oliver, Fresno Police Deputy Chief Michael Reid, and Celedon.

Oliver declined to have his nomination furthered, multiple sources told The Sun.

Reid was a candidate during the first search process to replace outgoing Fresno Police Chief, now Fresno Mayor-Elect, Jerry Dyer.

The search concluded last summer with Andy Hall being selected as interim Police Chief.

Following the vote, concerns about the commission’s validity in providing reform recommendations were freshly renewed, given Celedon’s rhetoric prior to the formation of the panel.

Amid the first night of riots in Minneapolis following the death of George Floyd, Celedon tweeted out footage of fires engulfing a Minneapolis Police precinct and stated “Burn it down.”

Separate worries emerged over what some commissioners perceive as wanton self-interest, that the social justice bloc of commissioners aim to steer the Commission’s recommendations toward partial defunding of the Fresno Police in the hopes of directing taxpayer funds toward nonprofit organizations such as Celedon’s Building Healthy Communities or other allied organizations – including Fresno Barrios Unidos or Cultiva La Salud.

The Commission is tasked with returning a list of reform proposals to the Fresno City Council within 90 days of its formation.

Yet, just a few meetings in, not much progress has been made on that front.

Alex Tavlian
Alex Tavlian is the Executive Editor of The San Joaquin Valley Sun and Executive Director of Valley Future Foundation. You can reach Alex at alex.tavlian@sjvsun.com.