Mayor Lee Brand on Wednesday introduced the new boss of Fresno’s Office of Independent Review.
He is John A. Gliatta, a former FBI agent and most recently a crime analyst with the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office.
Then the Mayor introduced members of Fresno’s first ever Citizens Public Safety Advisory Board.
There are nine. Long-time local business owner/Chamber of Commerce leader Debbie Hunsaker will serve as board president.
Tote it all up as two more campaign promises kept by Brand.
Now comes the hard part: Turning potential into production.
It’s no knock on the advisory board to note that Gliatta was the center of attention of Wednesday’s news conference at City Hall.
“We need to engage residents and bring them to the table to help build trust with the men and women who have sworn to protect them,” Brand said. “The first step in that process was to hire a new independent police reviewer, one that would live and work full time right here in Fresno. I’m pleased to say that we’ve found the right man to help us.”
Gliatta brings an impressive resume. He spent 27 years with the FBI, working as an assistant inspector at FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C. and assistant special agent in charge of the Sacramento FBI office.
Gliatta noted that he’s been a Fresno resident for more than 17 years and his wife is a native Fresnan.
“I have an interest in making sure that Fresno succeeds in the relationship between the community and its Police Department,” Gliatta said.
Gliatta said he worked closely throughout his career with law enforcement agencies across the nation. Referring to the Fresno Police Department and the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office, Gliatta said, “I can rank them right at the top with the departments I’ve worked with.”
Gliatta said the Office of Independent Review under his watch will have an open-door policy.
“If you have an issue, feel free to come forward,” Gliatta said. “We’re going to be very receptive to that. Honesty and integrity – that’s what we want to deal with.”
Gliatta said he understands the nature of leadership.
“I know how to make the tough decisions,” Gliatta said. “I tell it like it is.”
In addition to Hunsaker, the Citizens Public Safety Advisory Board consists of Pastor Jim Parks, attorney Amy Guerra, retired bank executive Vernon Crowder, business consultant Avis Braggs, Fresno County staff analyst Ike Grewal, businesswoman Monica Diaz and students Michael Kou Vang and Clifford Williams III.
“I created the Citizens Public Safety Advisory Board to enhance trust, accountability and transparency, and to promote a higher standard of services for the Fresno Police Department,” Brand said. “The independent police reviewer and the advisory board will work together to create public confidence in the Police Department and help make Fresno a safer place for its citizens as well as the brave men and women who help protect it.”
Of course, there’s a backstory to all this.
For starters, it was clear from the news conference that city officials want to bury the term “police auditor.” That will be easier said than done. The notion of something like a police auditor began getting serious consideration at City Hall during the Mayor Alan Autry era. It didn’t matter what the position was called on the city’s flow chart. To folks on the street, it was the police auditor.
Be advised: Gliatta is the “police reviewer.”
He’s the third police reviewer we’ve had.
The first was Eddie Aubrey, appointed in November 2009. The second was Rick Rasmussen, appointed in September 2012.
Aubrey lasted about two years. His status fell so far and so fast that he was essentially powerless when he left town. Mayor Ashley Swearengin didn’t hurry to fill the post.
Rasmussen split his time between Fresno and a job in Salt Lake City. He perpetual absence from City Hall made him largely a non-factor in the crafting of public safety policy. His career in Fresno ended when Brand took office in January.
But let’s give credit where credit is due.
Aubrey got the job of Fresno police reviewer launched. That was no small feat.
Rasmussen brought professional organization to the Office of Independent Review. He never missed a quarterly report. He delivered insightful reform recommendations in the wake of the Keith Foster crisis.
Now comes John Gliatta. Where does he take the Office of Independent Review?
His challenge is twofold.
First, Gliatta (unlike Aubrey and Rasmussen) has a citizens advisory board on the flow chart. There was considerable talk at Wednesday’s news conference how the police reviewer, the advisory board, the police, the police chief, the city manager, the mayor and the public will work together. There was considerable confidence that a balance of power will be achieved.
I wish everyone the best. I’ll believe it when I see it.
Second, Gliatta must do something about the Office of Independent Review/police reviewer brand. I don’t think I’m too far afield to say the brand after nearly eight years of existence has almost no heft in Fresno.
“Downtown Water Tower” – I get it. “Fresno State Bulldogs” – I get it. “Chief Jerry Dyer” – I get it.
“Office of Independent Review” – huh?
I had to leave the news conference early. I teach a reporting class at Fresno State. We meet on Wednesdays in the newsroom of The Collegian, the university’s award-winning multi-media news platform.
I told the students and Collegian editors about the Mayor’s appointment of Gliatta. I told them about the historic significance of the new advisory board.
And I told them that what happened at City Hall on Wednesday is important to Fresno State’s nearly 25,000 students. Public safety in a nation that prizes liberty and responsibility is an issue of stunning complexity. All you have to do is recall events across America of the past few years. The people shouldn’t be on the sidelines when it comes to crafting public safety policy.
Gliatta said he wants Fresno’s new era of public safety review to be a success.
“This is going to be a long row to hoe, but we’re going to get it done,” Gliatta said.
I hope Gliatta gets the opportunity to do some of that brand building as a speaker at Fresno State.
I know some talented young reporters who would be there.
Some random thoughts regarding the advisory committee: first and foremost, the absence of activists on it tells me that, at best, they’re taking a wait and see approach to its existence. At worse, they’ve washed their hands of it and the police reviewer concept. Second, the members are the sort you’d expect to see on a blue-ribbon committee or the civil grand jury. Folks one would expect won’t make many if any waves.
As for the reviewer, the activists will look at him very dubiously. Their perception will be he’s solidly in the back pocket of local law enforcement, having worked for the sheriff. They won’t trust him. They weren’t happy with Rasmussen being part time and not living in Fresno, but they did like his independence.
Time will tell.
Despite the rhetoric of “independence,” the first report from the new reviewer (3rd quarter 2017)demonstrates a clear bias to back to FPD. I’m referring to the fact that the Rasmussen report for the 4th quarter of 2016 reported at page 7 that the FPD IA review of the June 25, 2016 shooting of Dylan Noble had been turned over to the OIR. That both the OIR and the FPD IA concluded that policies and procedures were not followed. The OIR task regarding the Dylan Noble shooting was completed and was not supportive of the FPD. But the report of the new reviewer says at page 6 that review of the Noble shooting is “pending.” What’s pending? Nothing. It was already audited by the OIR. Maybe the only thing pending is the new reviewer’s plan to override Rasmussen and give the FPD a pass on the Noble shooting. Does not sound so independent to me.
Why pay for this position when we all know the results? Waste of taxpayer $. I want a refund.