A Fresno Police Officer was placed on leave Sunday after allegations surfaced connecting the officer to the Proud Boys extremist group.
Photos and videos alleged to be Fresno Police officer Rick Fitzgerald were posted on social media following a YouTube video from Madera resident Eddie Block – a member of the Proud Boys and a former Madera County Board of Supervisors candidate – protesting at the Tower Theatre on Sunday.
The photos show a man wearing Proud Boys paraphernalia, and a video appeared of Fitzgerald saying that he is no longer a member of the organization but does not “disparage” what its members do.
Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderrama issued a statement on Sunday night after the allegations first surfaced saying an investigation is underway.
“Although at this point these are merely allegations and the matter will be fully investigated, it is important to maintain the integrity and legitimacy of our police department,” Balderrama said. “Any allegations of actions unbecoming of a police officer or the affiliation with any alleged criminal or hate group will always be investigated and addressed. Fair and impartial policing are extremely important in our society. There is no place in our police ranks for any biased, racists, or anti-Semetic views.”
A spokesperson for the Fresno Police Department later confirmed that the officer in question was placed on leave.
Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer, the former police chief, released a statement calling the images “extremely disturbing.”
“As the Mayor of this city, I will not tolerate any City of Fresno employee belonging to organizations that promote views of supremacy, racism, or criminal conduct,” Dyer said.
“This matter is under investigation and appropriate action will be taken to address any misconduct.”
During a Monday morning press conference, Dyer confirmed that the man in various photos is a current member of the Fresno Police Department.
“I can tell you that the photographs and the video that I saw, is, in fact, a Fresno police officer,” Dyer said.
The Fresno Police Officers Association said the allegations are “very troubling” and a “great concern” to the department.
“The FPOA fully supports the Chief in his decision to initiate a thorough and objective investigation into this matter,” the police union said in a statement. “The investigation should be based on facts and evidence, free of political influences, purposed for discovering the validity to the allegations at hand.
“The FPOA also echoes the sentiments of Mayor Dyer, recognizing that racism, discrimination, and criminal conduct among our ranks is absolutely intolerable. The FPOA respects the constitutional rights of all persons and opposes any group or individual that would use violence or other illegal means to suppress the rights of others.”
Monday afternoon, Fresno City Council members Esmeralda Soria and Miguel Arias called for an independent investigation into Fitzgerald with public disclosure of findings.