Rick Fitzgerald has been fired from the Fresno Police Department following an investigation into his ties to the Proud Boys extremist group, Police Chief Paco Balderrama announced Friday.
The department placed Fitzgerald on leave on March 14 after the allegations of his Proud Boys connections surfaced.
“Due to the legal constraints surrounding personnel matters, I am unable to give further details. However, I stand by and reassert my prior comments in strongly disapproving of any police officer affiliating with hate groups, or any group known for engaging in violent criminal behavior,” Balderrama said in a statement.
“Such ideology, behavior, and affiliations have no place in law enforcement and will not be tolerated within the ranks of the Fresno Police Department. Public trust and accountability are paramount in our ability to fairly police this community. The integrity and legitimacy of our Police Department must be maintained.”
Photos and videos of Fitzgerald appeared on social media on March 14 following a protest outside the Tower Theatre.
Fitzgerald was seen wearing Proud Boys paraphernalia. A video also surfaced of him stating that he is no longer a member of the extremist group, but he does not “disparage” the actions of its members.
Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer applauded Balderrama and the department for releasing Fitzgerald.
“After discussions with Chief Balderrama regarding the ongoing internal investigation of Officer Rick Fitzgerald, who is accused of participating with the Proud Boys extremist group, it is clear to me that there were egregious violations of department policy,” Dyer said in a statement.
“I am pleased that Officer Fitzgerald will no longer be serving as a police officer with the City of Fresno. As Mayor, I want to reiterate to the community that I will not tolerate any form of racism displayed by City of Fresno employees.”
In a video interview with GV Wire, Fitzgerald said that he spoke with Fresno Police Deputy Chief Mark Salazar, who informed him that Balderrama was utilizing emergency authority to terminate the 18-year officer.
“My initial response was: it’s ironic that I work for a police department where when I arrest people they’re innocent until proven guilty, but in my case I was guilty from the first day,” Fitzgerald said.
“So, the irony was thick.”
Fitzgerald said the basis of his firing was tied to a code section prohibiting officers from committing felonies. The discharged officer said that the alleged felony utilized by Fresno Police leadership to justify the firing was tied to his attendance at a rally in Sacramento last year.
No charges stemming from that protest were ever filed against Fitzgerald.