Fresno

Fresno’s Police Chief scolds city leaders over coronavirus response

As the State of California and its metropolitan municipalities ramped up their response to the outbreak of coronavirus – leaning toward the issuance of shelter-in-place orders, a key feature has emerged: the tiptoeing around the legal enforceability of those orders.

The City of Fresno, which Wednesday issued its own shelter-in-place order, spent painstaking effort to clarify that its order was merely a strongly-worded advisory.

During deliberations over Wednesday’s order, Fresno City Councilman Miguel Arias sought to fully utilize the City’s police power to enforce the shelter in place

As The Sun previously reported, considerable push back over the proposal came from Fresno Police Chief Andy Hall.

Thursday, The Sun obtained a copy of a memo sent by Hall to Fresno Mayor Lee Brand, Fresno City Manager (and Coronavirus Emergency Services Director) Wilma Quan, and the Fresno City Council pillorying the proposal.

“I just want to be clear with everyone that this order is not enforceable in its current state,” Hall wrote. “It’s symbolic in nature and will only serve to panic an already uneasy and unstable community.”

Hall emphasized that the initial proposal was a drastic measure.

“We are talking about criminalizing our civil liberties and taking way the constitutional rights of our citizens,” he wrote. “Criminalizing members of our community with an unenforceable ordinance is not the answer. Slow down!”

“The people want information and leadership, not idle threats. They will listen to you.”

Hall’s bluntness toward the city’s emergency response was redoubled on the subject of the City issuing paid furloughs to a wide range of civil service employees.

“I am ashamed of our civil servants,” Hall wrote. “We all gladly accept the pay, benefits, and security that our hardworking taxpayers provide us to serve them; however at the first sign of trouble, we abandon them and go home.”

Along with the shelter-in-place order, the City issued an executive order that ordered certain, unspecified civil service employees to stay at home and “shall not be required to expend accrued leave time or take leave without pay.”

Other classes of workers would be required to utilize their accrued vacation to stay home, according to the order.

“We are not even requiring our employees to use their lucrative government time off benefits while they shelter at home on a paid vacation,” the chief noted.”

“Every one of our government employees should be at work. It’s what we all signed up to do. If they can’t do their current jobs

City sources told The Sun that a number of civil servants covered under the Wednesday order were informed that they would need to report to work on Monday.

Hall, for his part, offered a few suggestions as to what public-facing City workers could do in the alternative.

“If they can’t do their current jobs then they should be mobilized to serve our community in other ways to ease their suffering,” he wrote. “We can deliver food to the elderly, help those in need and support those who are heeding our words and sheltering in place.”

“Now is not the time for us to cut and run.”

Read Fresno Police Chief Andy Hall’s memo:

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.