Dozens of Fresno police officers were honored at City Hall on July 26 for outstanding – and, in many instances, heroic – service to the community.
The event was the Police Department’s annual Major Commendation Awards Ceremony. The Council Chamber was packed. Mayor Lee Brand and Chief Jerry Dyer made heartfelt and inspiring remarks.
Their theme: Extraordinary performance is routine for Fresno’s men and women in blue.
All of the honored actions (I counted 25) occurred in 2016. Officers saved lives. They risked their own lives to apprehend shooters. They teamed with peace officers from other agencies to take down deadly gangs.
The good people of Fresno thank the honored officers and all of their colleagues on the force.
Permit me to focus on the “Outstanding Achievement” award presented by the Chief to Andy Hall and Richard Tucker. The achievement involved the Donald Trump rally.
Hall and Tucker have been Fresno cops for a long time. Any veteran City Hall or cops reporter knows of the fine work they do day in and day out.
Here is the commendation that was read as Hall and Tucker stood in the center of the Council Chamber:
“On May 16th of 2016, Deputy Chief, then Captain, Andy Hall and Lieutenant Richard Tucker received word that presidential candidate Donald Trump would be staging a rally at Selland Arena on May 27th. As commanders of the Department’s Mobile Field Force, Deputy Chief Hall and Lieutenant Tucker began to properly prepare for this potentially volatile event. Through closely monitoring similar events throughout the country and meeting with the Trump advance team, the Secret Service and other allied agencies, they learned what to expect and planned accordingly. On the day of the event, it was clear that Department personnel were well prepared. Deputy Chief Hall and Lieutenant Tucker attended the briefings and made certain that every officer assigned to this detail understood their precise role. They also established a vital, balanced tone for personnel. As expected, there were several outbursts, and these were handled very professionally by our personnel. There were also incidents where officers became the focus of protestor emotion. However, because of the proper preparation, our officers handled these with minimal force, extreme professionalism and restraint.”
Dyer spoke to the Council Chamber audience after the reading.
“There is so much that is unsaid about the preparation for the Trump rally,” Dyer said. It “could have ended up like many other cities across America.”
That preparation, Dyer said, included “having the trees pruned, making sure we had folks up in the high places, escape routes, equipment, our special response team folks standing by – just so many things that went into this.”
The Chief said others elsewhere in America took note of what happened – and didn’t’ happen – in Fresno.
“We received a lot of positive recognition across the nation for the efforts here in Fresno,” Dyer said. “That’s because of others, but largely because of Deputy Chief Hall and Lt. Rick Tucker. Thank you, guys.”
I caught up with Deputy Chief Hall and Lt. Tucker after the ceremony.
I asked: How did you guys do it?
“It was a lot of planning,” Tucker said. “And I know the deputy chief would echo these comments – as we stand here today, that was not just us. There were several sergeants and the hard work and professionalism of the officers out there that led to that success that day.”
Tucker added: “I want to give a shout-out to the other agencies that were there to help us: Clovis, CHP, Fresno Sheriff’s Department. Without their help, we wouldn’t have been able to do that. We wouldn’t have had enough resources.”
I attended the Trump rally with CVObserver Publisher Alex Tavlian. Reporters were herded into a pen on the Selland Arena floor. Shortly before Trump arrived, I overheard Tucker give last-minute instructions to some of his officers. Among the last things he said to them: “Be sure to smile.”
I asked Tucker at the July 26 awards ceremony about the theory behind that piece of advice.
“I’ll just say this – and I’ve always said this: We’re not the enemy,” Tucker said. “We don’t have a position in this campaign. We’re here to make sure that is a safe event, that everybody has a chance to get their message out, whether they were there to protest or not. I wanted them (the officers) to be just that – who they are. And that’s friendly.”
I said to myself as I listened to the commendation being read: I hope Hall and Tucker learned well, because May 27, 2016 will be nothing compared to the next time Donald Trump shows up in Fresno.
And there almost certainly will be a next time.
I pitched this thought to Hall in the Council Chamber.
“We always do an after-action report after every major event,” Hall said. “And we’re very critical of ourselves. Even though it may look like it went very smooth to the public, there was a lot going on, a lot of decisions and a lot of things are made on the fly. Like, we went out and looked, and there were some rocks in the flowerbeds that we had to clean up before the event so we wouldn’t give people something to throw. Yes, there was a lot of planning and I certainly think we could do better. We watched so much footage of Trump rallies coming into this. It was like a college football coach. We watched so much film footage that we learned from others’ mistakes. We saw what they did right and what they did poorly, and we tried not to do the poor things and tried to do the right things. We got it pretty much right, but there are things I will change.”
Why do I think there is likely to be a “next time” in Fresno?
Donald Trump is now President Trump. Some people are very happy about that. Some are very upset. That’s why some commentators think America is now in a “cold” civil war.
Trump lost California by a huge margin in 2016. He almost certainly will lose California in 2020.
But Trump in 2016 energized his supporters elsewhere in the nation by running against the liberals/progressives of California. He is a master of political theater. I’m guessing the President in 2020 will make several swings through California just to generate the “visuals” that would play well in various swing states.
The streets of Downtown Fresno on May 27, 2016 seemed plenty tense to me. And that was when everyone was absolutely sure that Hillary would win in November.
What will the streets of Fresno be like in 2020 when the stakes are a second four-year term for President Trump?
If he makes it to 2020, the streets of Fresno will be a whole different story than in May 2016. While the 2016 rally went reasonably well, at one point Fresno PD was hard-pressed to keep the crowd away from Trump and the candidate had to make a rushed exit going the wrong way on M Street. Some people I know, uninvolved people, who witnessed the flight described it as “panicked.”
In 2020, he’ll face a much more wrathful crowd, some of whom will want to do him bodily harm. I predict FPD will have a much more difficult time keeping the peace and keeping Trump separated from his less adoring “fans.”