Fresno Police Chief Andy Hall heaped praise to the Fresno City Council Monday for supporting the police department in the new budget that was approved last week.
The budget adds $10 million to the department in additional contractual requirements and memorandum-of-understanding needs, while avoiding layoffs layoffs does not layoff any officers or civilian staff.
The budget also adds two additional police officers and two community service officers to the department.
“During these uncertain times the mayor and the city council resisted calls to defund the police department,” said Hall at a crime suppression press conference Monday. “Instead they threw their support behind the men and women who serve this community.”
Councilmemeber Mike Karbassi joined Hall at the press conference and has been a vocal advocate for the police department.
He called back to a pledge he made as a candidate in which he promised to never support a budget that does not add additional officers to the force.
Karbassi also addressed the Fresno Commission on Police Reform, which recently sent its department reform recommendations to city council.
The full report contains 73 recommends that range from overhauling department oversight to detailing when police officers should use force.
“We just got this report, and I’m going to be doing a thorough review and looking at every single recommendation and trying to understand with every recommendation that’s made – how is this going to ensure officer safety? How is it going to ensure community safety? How is it going to ensure that every time somebody calls 9-1-1 because their life is in danger, because there’s real evil out there, someone is going to be able to come and help them and keep them safe and protect their life,” Karbassi said.
Even as the police department is facing potential reforms, law enforcement in Fresno County has stepped up with the gang task force that started Oct. 6 to suppress violent crime.
“Working with state, federal and local partners, I am pleased to announce that we have been able to show a significant reduction in crime,” Hall said.
Fresno has seen a 60 percent reduction in shootings since Oct. 6, and the operation has resulted in 279 felony arrests – 209 of which involve gang members – and 128 illegal guns removed from the streets.
“More importantly, most of these felons are now being held in jail longer,” Hall said. “I just recently learned that our prisons are also now accepting additional transfers from our local jails to state prison.
With the state reopening the prisons, Hall said Fresno County has moved 100 felons from the county jail to a state facility, freeing up the necessary beds to house more inmates.
Hall also addressed the current search for a new Police Chief as he is facing a mandatory retirement next spring.
Hall said that there are two candidates – one internal and one external – and he would stay on to help with the transition for as long as needed.
With a new chief in the mix soon, the department is about a year or more away from hiring new officers, Fresno Police Officers’ Association President Todd Frazier said at the press conference.
The department had been dealing with a hiring freeze due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the new budget eliminates that freeze.
Since bringing in new officers is a ways off, Frazier said the FPOA is working with the city to bring in lateral hires, officers who have been employed with other police agencies.
It would be a “plug-and-play” process, Frazier said, since the department would not have to wait for new officers to go through the police academy and undergo training.
Frazier said the city could target police officers from cities that are facing the “defund the police” culture and are dissatisfied with their situations.