Fresno · Highlight

Paco Balderrama officially named as Fresno Police Chief

Dec. 8, 3:00 p.m.: Fresno Mayor Lee Brand announced Tuesday that the city has selected Juan “Paco” Balderrama as the next Fresno Chief of Police. 

Balderrama joins the Fresno Police Department following over 20 years with the Oklahoma City Police Department, including as the deputy chief since 2019. He will be the first Hispanic police chief in Fresno Police Department history. 

“It’s been clear from the start that Fresno wants a chief who can make changes, build trust and increase safety for all of our residents,” Brand said. “As I’ve said many times, the selection of our next police chief will be the single most important decision that we make. This impacts every person in Fresno.” 

Balderrama is replacing outgoing chief Andy Hall, who is facing a mandated retirement next spring, and the pair will work together for the next month. Balderrama will officially take over as chief on Jan. 11 while Hall’s last day will be on Jan. 15. 

“I will have various priorities that I will set forth as police chief, but I can really just identify them in two simple terms: community trust and community safety,” Balderrama said. “Those are the two things that I’m going to focus on, and everything else is going to revolve around them. 

“These are big challenges, although they’re stated very simply. I really think that through professionalism, accountability, transparency and community engagement, we can get those things done. I’m very happy to be here. I thank you Fresno community for welcoming me. Everyone’s been very kind, and I can’t wait to start. 

Mayor-elect Jerry Dyer – the former longtime Fresno police chief – had high praise for Balderrama, saying the new chief “has what it takes to lead in these turbulent times.” 

“Paco understands what it takes to keep a community safe,” Dyer said. “He knows how to balance enforcement, prevention and intervention, and just as important Paco knows how to earn the trust of the community as well as the department members. In today’s environment of social unrest and police scrutiny and criticism, that is a quality that is very much needed to be able to balance and maintain that trust of department members as well as the community.” 

Once Balderrama officially takes over for Hall and begins working with Dyer, he will take the helm of a Police Department that is facing a clamor of changes, in the form of 73 recommendations submitted by the recently-formed Fresno Commission for Police Reform. 

The recommendations submitted by the commission cover various topics such as removing police from school sites, removing the police from calls regarding homelessness and reforming when police officers use physical force. 

“I can’t say a whole lot because that is still being reviewed, but I think a lot of those make a lot of sense,” Balderrama said. “Many of those recommendations are common sense recommendations, and they’re national standards. I think we should implement some of those. Others are a little bit more technical because of legal reasons, so obviously we have to get with our legal team and figure those out. 

“But the commission, we owe them a great deal of gratitude because some of those meetings were very long and very complex, but it shows that those individuals on that commission really care about changing the future of Fresno and specifically the police department. After 2020 I don’t think police work as we have known it will ever be exactly the same as it used to be. So I do anticipate some changes. I do anticipate sitting down and getting to meet some of the people on that commission and to working with them to make this community safer and to make the police department better.”


Dec. 6, 2020: Oklahoma City Police Department Deputy Chief Paco Balderrama appears primed to be selected as Fresno’s next police chief, sources within City Hall told The Sun on Sunday night.

A City of Fresno spokesman said that city officials were not in a position to announce a police chief to succeed short-termer Police Chief Andy Hall.

Sources told The Sun that Fresno’s Mayor Lee Brand and Mayor-Elect Jerry Dyer were to announce the pick at a Tuesday press conference.

Balderrama, a native of El Paso, Tex., was named Deputy Chief with the Oklahoma City law enforcement agency in April 2019 and was tabbed as one of two finalists by Hall.

According to a report from GVWire, the top internal contender for the position was Fresno Deputy Police Chief Mark Salazar.

Salazar vied for the job when then-Police Chief Dyer formally retired in 2019 ahead of a Mayoral win nearly one year later.

He, along with Deputy Chief Michael Reid, were two highly-touted internal candidates who applied in 2019. Salazar was, at the time, ranked as a Captain.

Both were rejected during a highly-visible search by the Brand administration.

Hall, the head of Fresno Police Department’s traffic division was selected with 18 months before his retirement date under the city’s deferred retirement program.

Another candidate, Malik Aziz, a Major with the Dallas Police Department was also considered a top external contender.

The panel assembled to interview the chief candidates included:

Mayoral advisors, senior officials & City Council members

  • Wilma Quan, Outgoing City Manager
  • Tommy Esqueda, Incoming City Manager
  • Tim Orman, Chief of Staff
  • H Spees, Director of Strategic Initiatives
  • Greg Barfield, Transportation director
  • Miguel Arias, Fresno City Council President
  • Nelson Esparza, Fresno City Council Member
  • Mike Karbassi, Fresno City Council Member

Labor & Law Enforcement representatives

  • Todd Fraizer, Fresno Police Officers Association
  • Sam Frank, Fresno City Employees Association
  • Chuck Riojas, Building and Construction Trades Council
  • Curt Fleming, Clovis Police Chief

Faith Leaders

  • DJ Criner
  • Eli Loera
  • Reza Nekumanesh
  • Larry Powell, former Fresno Co. Superintendent of Schools

Local advocates & Business Community

  • Artie Padilla, Every Neighborhood Partnership
  • Joseph Velasco, Fresno Barrios Unidos
  • Pao Yang, Fresno Center
  • Leroy Chandler
  • Lorraine Salazar
  • Hon. Robert Oliver (Ret.)

In his second bid for the job, Salazar was seen as a preferred option among City Hall denizens and community advocates.

That a homegrown Deputy Chief likely was rejected for the job twice is likely to be disheartening, leaving a recently-promoted Salazar in a lurch.

In the modern historical context, Fresno has had a small smattering of outsider candidates fill the top cop job. The vast majority, however, are recruited from the department’s own ranks.

Dyer, the longest tenured police chief in the department’s history, was an internal candidate tapped by then-Mayor Alan Autry. So, too, was his predecessor – Ed Winchester.

Balderrama would not only serve as the first outsider police chief in nearly 27 years, he’d also be the city’s second non-White police chief.

The first, Joseph Samuels, ran the department from 1991 to 1993.

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.