The Fresno Police Department had historic lows for officer-involved shootings and bias complaints in 2019 while experiencing a six-year high in employee dismissals.
Those are the big takeaways from the city’s Office of Independent Review fourth-quarter report.
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The independent reviewer said that the three officer-involved shootings in 2019 were a 20-year low. There were seven officer-involved shootings in 2018.
And, there were no bias complaints made against the department, the report stated.
In 2019, 15 police employees left the department for disciplinary reasons, an increase from two the prior year and the most since the OIR started tracking that statistic in 2013.
“I think that’s going to demonstrate a healthy organization that holds its employees accountable,” Fresno Police Chief Andy Hall said.
Discipline Rate Nearly Doubles Under Hall. He Calls it Coincidence.
Fresno police were disciplined at a higher rate under Hall in the last quarter of 2019 than the previous three quarters.
The rate that police employees faced disciplinary measures — from letters of reprimand to terminations — nearly doubled in the period from Oct.-Dec. 2019 compared to the previous nine months. There was an average of 14 cases per quarter resulting in discipline in the first three quarters. But there were 25 cases in the last quarter.
Hall says the numbers are more of a coincidence of timing than policies he’s implemented. Hall officially became chief on Oct. 16, taking over for the retiring Jerry Dyer. At that time, a large number of Internal Affairs investigations were close to being completed, the chief said. Four of the cases that resulted in employees leaving the department last year involved conduct that took place in 2018.
“It takes several months for a major investigation to get through the process,” Hall said. “I think it’s too early to make a conclusion that this is anything other than this is just the ebb and flow of complaints.”
Discipline Numbers Reach Six-Year Highs
The number of Fresno police employees disciplined in 2019 also reached a six-year high, according to the OIR’s fourth-quarter report.
For the year, 70 police employees — the report does not distinguish between sworn officers and civilian members — faced some form of discipline. That was a 37% increase over 2018 for the same measured categories.
“It’s significant,” Hall said. “I believe that we do a great job of policing ourselves.”
In 2019, 15 police employees left the department either through termination (7), resignation in lieu of termination (5), or retired (3). Only two left the department in 2018 because of discipline issues; both were terminated.
Hall pointed out that more complaints were generated from within the department (94) than from citizen complaints (41). The previous year, 95 complaints were department generated and 48 came from the public. Hall said that’s a “healthy’ situation.
Todd Frazier, president of the Fresno Police Officers’ Association, said some of the information provided in the OIR report was not collected previously.
Analyzing the increase in dismissals and disciplinary actions, Frazier said: “Let’s see how it plays out in the next few years.”
Hall on Disciplinary Measures
In the Winter 2019 edition of its Kopout magazine, the Fresno Police Officers Association hinted to its members that Hall may engage in more disciplinary measures than Dyer did.
“We have a new Chief and he is scrutinizing your conduct very closely and has not been afraid to hand down severe discipline,” wrote Scott Shepard, chair of FPOA’s Legal Defense Program.
Hall said he isn’t doing anything dramatically different.
“The only change that I made was that we roundtable policy violations through all of the executive staff,” Hall said.
Before Hall, only a handful of department officials reviewed discipline matters.
“I don’t think I’m a Lone Ranger here,” Hall said. “This is the direction that the entire staff is taking and that’s why I include them in the disciplinary process. So that it’s more consistent amongst the entire organization.”
Hall said it is important to be consistent throughout the entire department, from the northeast to the southwest.
Frazier agreed that the increased numbers in the fourth quarter do not necessarily reflect Hall being more strict.
“My participation is to make sure discipline is not based on politics and I try to remind (them that) these police officers are men and women — human beings and sometimes make mistakes during very dangerous and/or stressful situations,” Frazier said in an email.
“Just realize stress manifests itself in many forms and can materialize on or off duty. This is why the FPOA has a very involved Peer Support/Companion Officer program to assist our members (active and retired), and their families when these stressors come to a head.”
OIR: Training Leads to a Better Police Department
In addition to the decline in officer-involved shootings, the department saw in-custody deaths fall from two in 2018 to none last year, according to the OIR.
“A contributing factor can be the emphasis on de-escalation training mandated for each officer,” Independent Reviewer John Gliatta wrote in his report.
“The no bias-based complaints is not surprising. Our officers/members go out every day and enforce the laws, not skin color!” — FPOA President Todd Frazier
Frazier, who has served as a violent crimes investigator, offered another reason for the drop in officer-involved shootings.
“You can’t also discount the fact that some officers have opted not to take enforcement action in certain cases in order to avoid being demonized by the public, media, and politicians that we have been seeing so much of lately,” Frazier said.
Gliatta attributed the absence of any bias complaints against officers in 2019 to improved training methods. Hall agreed.
“A lot of it goes to our crisis intervention training and our de-escalation training, how you talk to people and sometimes how you say things matters,” Hall said. “Even though you may not mean to be offensive, sometimes how you say it can be offensive. So I think when we discuss it, talk about it and train about it, we become better citizens.”
Frazier is proud of his officers.
“The no bias-based complaints is not surprising. Our officers/members go out every day and enforce the laws, not skin color!” Frazier said.
Why Police Employees Left the Force
Analyzing the four quarterly OID reports, Gliatta briefly described 13 instances where he didn’t conduct a follow-up review after the subject resigned or retired prior to the conclusion of an Internal Affairs investigation.
Two police employees were involved in domestic violence matters; one left for sending unsolicited text messages; another for an off-duty DUI hit-and-run.
Two left because of not securing property or misplacing property. Another left because of failing to correct an evidence error.
|7/17/2018||1/31/2019||Department alleged officer was in domestic violence matter|
|1/08/2019||6/25/2019||Department alleged employee was in domestic violence incident|
|2/22/2019||4/13/2019||Department alleged conduct unbecoming of an officer, criminal actions|
|9/19/2018||6/11/2019||Department alleged officer did not secure FPD property|
|12/07/2018||4/13/2019||Department alleged officer misplaced FPD property|
|2/08/2019||4/22/2019||Department alleged officer did not correct evidence error|
|11/28/2018||4/12/2019||Department alleged officer at-fault in a vehicle accident|
|6/05/2019||8/08/2019||Complaining party alleged officer was hostile and aggressive|
|1/09/2019||11/26/2019||Complaining party alleged officer was driving at excessive speed|
|2/08/2019||10/28/2019||Department alleged off-duty officer made threatening statements raising concern for safety|
|6/28/2019||12/17/2019||Department alleged officer in off-duty DUI hit-and-run|
|9/09/2019||12/30/2019||Complaining party alleged officer was sending unsolicited text messages|
|3/29/2019||10/28/2019||Department alleged officer at fault in a vehicle accident|