The $1.2 billion Fresno city budget approved last month for the 2019-20 fiscal year includes no increases in sworn police officers.

That doesn’t sit well with at least one candidate for the open seat on the Fresno City Council.

Three of the five men vying for the District 2 seat talked about policing and other issues at a candidates forum June 26, presented by GV Wire and CMAC. A special election is scheduled for Aug. 13 to select a replacement for Steve Brandau, who was elected to the Fresno County Board of Supervisors in October.

Candidates Jared Gordon, Mike Karbassi, and Oscar Sandoval took part in the forum. The remaining two, Lawrence Garcia and George Herman, chose not to participate.

Number of Sworn Fresno Officers Unchanged

The 825 sworn officers in the upcoming budget, approved by the city council in June, is essentially unchanged from police staffing levels in 2018-19. The department had 800 officers in 2017-18.

The police department’s budget for the coming year is $201.8 million, up 9.5% from the current fiscal year. In addition to sworn officers, the number of total employees in the department also is unchanged, at 1,122.

The council’s District 2 lies in the police department’s northwest district. Violent crime in the policing district (which covers an area beyond just District 2) decreased by 17.9% in 2018, from 28 reported incidents in 2017 to 23. Property crime, however, rose by 12.8%, to a total of 380 cases. Burglaries leaped by 53% and vehicle thefts by 65%.

Karbassi: ‘Every Budget Should Add More Cops’

Karbassi said he has taken a “no officers, no budget” pledge. “If you come to me with a budget that doesn’t include hiring more police officers or support staff, I’m not going to vote for it,” he said.

He said research indicates Fresno is far below the ratio of officers to residents necessary to ensure proper levels of public safety. Fresno is about 200 officers short, he said: “Every budget should add more cops.”

Karbassi declined to give specifics about where the city could find the money to hire more police. “I’m not going to single out any department,” he said. “But I’m going to look at the budget line item by line item. We’re going to have to find the money.”

Gordon: Make Officers More Effective and Capable

Gordon said he was willing to look at increasing the size of the police force, but added he believes the city can do more to sharpen the capabilities of the officers it has.

“New officers cost about $120,000 a year, so we’d have to find a way to pay for those officers. It’s a challenge that we’ll face,” Gordon said.

He said the city should invest more in training current officers, giving them new tools and equipment, and “improving their communications capabilities.”

“We can make the officers that we have more effective and more capable,” Gordon said. “We don’t necessarily need to be at the typical level of officers, although certainly if we can afford it we should be there.”

Sandoval: Officers Should Be Like Neighbors

Sandoval agreed that “our police officers shouldn’t be understaffed.” But, like Gordon, he said the focus should be on the existing force. “There is more we can do to foster better relationships between the police and the community,” he said.

More programs that improve relationships between police and the people they serve is important, Sandoval said. “When you think about a policeman, ideally you always want to put the word ‘neighbor’ in front of them, because that’s what these people should be.”

Sandoval noted a recent weekend of gun violence in Fresno that included a 10-month-old girl being shot in the head. At one of the shooting scenes, many witnesses refused to cooperate with officers, he said.

“Unfortunately, that stems from a distrust in the police department as a whole,” Sandoval said. “And that affects all of us because that allows criminals to keep good to get away with their crime.”

4 Responses

  1. Melissa Remme

    Maybe we don’t need more cops. Maybe we just need to replace the lazy and the scared cops with ones who will actually do their jobs of serve and protect instead of scream at, accuse, and harrass the clearly or presumably innocent while ignoring clear violaters of the law.

    Reply
    • Fred J.

      Agreed.

      Not more, just better.

      Unfortunately, with a Police Chief like ours, the bar’s pretty low.

      Reply
    • Robert

      We don’t WANT any more cops in minority neighborhoods because we COMPLETELY distrust the cops. They kill SO MANY people and are NEVER EVER held accountable…EVER. Jerry Dyer is the MAIN REASON why this continues. When the next election comes up I IMPLORE EBERYONE TO VOTE AGAINST HIM..Our parks are neglected year after year but EVERY SINGLE year they City and Republicans on the council DEMAMD MORE COPS…well, since the WHOLE CITY as an entity voted AGAINST the parks measure because they want MORE $ FOR COPS then now I think WE THE PEOPLE who voted FOR THE PARKS measure should return the favor and VOTE NO the next time THE CITY wamtss more funding for the police. The cops are out of control. Vote no on whatever the police and the CITY propose WHEN they want MORE funds.

      Reply
  2. Dee Jones

    Yes we do need more cops. They are spread thin; however, they need the right tools to do their jobs well. Its business 101. Flawed laws need changing ASAP. In addition remove some of the ridiculous responsibilities put on them. For instance, dealing with the homeless. Dont get me started about the mystical beast they call Homeless Task Force. Theres been no confirmed sightings. City Council recently pointed fingers saying the money was offered to the department t for more officers and it was declined by Chief Dyer. How can our City unite in any way when it seems several of our leaders prefer to solo rather than build and sustain an exceptional “TEAM”….
    Lastly, after all this – how about you simply take the $200,000 allotted for extortion payments to gang members who play nice and move it to line item for MORE OFFICERS? Who can look me in the face and mention that item without laughing? So who will monitor the playground? Why not just say what it is – a grant to start ANY business they want.
    Or, vaca money.. just free stupid money for just being you boo.. #teamfresno #dotheycare #theyneedustoo #doyourjob

    Reply

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