Lee Brand faces the biggest decision of his first mayoral term with eyes wide open.

Whoever succeeds Jerry Dyer as Fresno police chief, the mayor says, “somebody is going to be unhappy.”

Portrait of GV Wire News Director/Columnist Bill McEwen

Opinion

Bill McEwen

But if anybody complains they didn’t have a chance to weigh in on the choice, well, that’s on them.

During his 2016 mayoral campaign, Brand promised to involve the community in selecting the next police chief. He’s made good on that promise in a big way.

“Nowadays, the police chief is a huge position in cities of our size and bigger,” Brand says. “Maybe more important, but at least equally important, as the city manager.

“That’s why we are embarking on the largest, most comprehensive search this city has ever done.”

There’s another obvious why. The mayor’s position is on the 2020 ballot and failing to make good on his promise would irreparably harm Brand’s re-election bid.

Making Your Voice Heard

An online survey is up and will be available through May 31. The survey asks residents about the qualities they want in the next chief and the issues he or she should address.

I took it the other day, and you should, too.

You can fill it out using the links below or by going to the city’s website.

Five community meetings — one each of the city’s policing districts — begin Tuesday, April 23, and wrap up May 9. Brand and city manager Wilma Quan will attend the meetings, which will be led by community leaders residing in the district.

Additionally, residents can voice their opinions at City Council district meetings over the next six weeks.

Brand assured me the surveys and meetings aren’t window dressing for his campaign pledge.

“We will collate all of the data and citizen input, and give it to our search firm,” Brand says. “The goal is for them to base a national search on our community’s needs.

“Replacing Jerry Dyer isn’t going to be easy. We need to look far and wide. Deputy chiefs and captains in our department are welcome to apply, but it will be a national search.”

The search firm is Torrance-based Teri Black & Company, LLC.

The company’s motto? “Building stronger communities one placement at a time. No other firm works harder and smarter to get it right.”

We’ll see if they live up to that claim. Brand’s political future, to some degree, depends on it.

 

graphic of community meetings on Fresno police chief search

Finalists Interviews

Brand says the finalists will face “two or three panel interviews” this summer. Those panelists have yet to be determined.

Asked what part the Fresno Police Officers Association would play in selecting the next chief, Brand said: “They may have some role down the road.”

The Big Decision

On paper, the decision rests with the Quan, and she will announce the choice. But the last word is Brand’s. Quan’s role will be to point out the strengths and weaknesses of the candidates that Brand might not have considered.

The goal is to have the next chief in place about a month before Dyer’s retirement on Oct. 16, so Dyer can assist in the transition.

The mayor says that whoever is offered the job can expect to be paid “in the range” of what Dyer receives. In 2017, according to Transparent California, Dyer received $206,539 in base pay, $40,693 in “other pay,” and $59,291 in benefits. That brought his total compensation package to $306,523.

What Fresno Needs

That’s a lot of money. But this is a tough job that will test the skills, life experiences, and endurance of anyone taking it on.

The bottom line is that Fresno is tackling serious challenges — poverty, the south-north divide, and multi-generational gang membership — with insufficient resources. There will be a honeymoon period for the next chief, but it potentially could be a short one.

In my book, the new chief had best be a strong but collaborative leader. Someone who can build bridges, mend hearts, always be there for the officers he leads — and still make tough decisions in a cauldron of unrelenting pressure.

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