Parlier fires police chief during tumultuous city council meeting

After a tenuous City Council meeting Thursday evening, Parlier Police Chief Jose Garza was let go.  

The council had a closed session item to consider canning Garza, but a dozen people spoke during public comment against the firing. 

Multiple police officers threatened to quit their jobs if the city fired Garza, and several Parlier citizens spoke about the positive impact the police chief has had on the community. 

“I started with this agency on Dec. 5, 2016. When I became an officer with this agency, as I drove down the streets of Parlier, nobody would wave at us, look at us, because they were afraid of us,” Officer Dan Barcellos said. “They were afraid of coming and calling the police department for assistance because of what had happened in the past. 

“Since our new leader has been brought in in 2017, Chief Garza, this agency has turned around 120 to 125 percent. We drive down the street, people wave at us. They ask us to their homes. They call us without any regard of being judged or treated as a second class citizen.” 

Barcellos added, “I’m sorry, I don’t want to go this way, but if we can’t have our chief and our leader that we all strive for, I have no other choice because I’m not getting the support, and we’re not getting the support of our council or mayor. I would have to look for employment elsewhere.” 

Parlier resident Humberto Gomez Jr. alleged that Mayor Alma Beltran wanted to get rid of Garza for personal reasons. 

“It’s the mayor’s thing – doesn’t like him,” Gomez said. “He has high ethical standards and moral standards that [are] lacking from the mayor. And it’s personal, so she’s taking this vendetta.” 

Gomez continued on to promise that there will be a recall campaign to remove Beltran from office. 

Beltran pointed to the city’s budget as a reason for making changes to the police department. She said Parlier’s general fund is $3.5 million, $3.3 million of which is spent on the police department. 

She said the city struggled to fund the department back when its budget was at $1.5 million. 

Why does Parlier have such an expensive police department if it cannot afford it? 

Beltran noted that the city would have received funds from Measure G if it had passed last November. 

Measure G would have indefinitely renewed an existing annual parcel tax to fund law enforcement. It needed a two-thirds vote (66.7 percent) to pass, but it failed by a razor sharp margin – 66.17 to 33.83 percent. 

Beltran urged the people who spoke in Garza’s support to support the measure when it returns to the ballot. 

“The thing is this: They didn’t feel confident to pass the measure, and all we’re asking is that you guys, the way you put all that energy into having him stay, well then let’s work on passing that measure,” Beltran said. “Because we cannot afford the department we have right now.” 

Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.