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Fresno Police Chief Andy Hall says that shelter-in-place orders spurred by the coronavirus are “symbolic in nature and will only serve to panic an already uneasy and unstable community.”

While Hall agrees with limiting gathering places and staying at home, he also said this in a Thursday morning email to the Fresno Police Officers Association:

“(W)e all need to take a breath and not succumb to our fears. We are talking about criminalizing our civil liberties and taking away the constitutional rights of our citizens.”

Sharing information, Hall wrote, would be the best strategy, “not idle threats.”

“People are a lot smarter than we’re giving them credit for, even the poor and under-educated,” his email stated.

Hall’s opinions are part of a debate taking place across the nation.

How aggressive must government be to contain the COVID-19 pandemic? Does government err on the side of caution? And what civil liberties must be maintained or temporarily suspended?

Chief’s Words Come Before Newsom’s Order

Hall sent the email hours before Gov. Gavin Newsom enacted a mandatory statewide stay-at-home order Thursday night.

Through Friday, six COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in Fresno County.

As of 11 a.m. Friday, the state had 1,063 confirmed cases and 21 deaths.

Hall: ‘I Stand by Everything I Wrote’

“I stand by everything I wrote. I’m not going to back away from it,” Hall told GV Wire on Thursday evening.

— Fresno Police Chief Andy Hall

Hall’s comments came following Wednesday’s emergency city council meeting where a voluntary shelter-in-place order was discussed and imposed by Fresno City Manager Wilma Quan on behalf of Mayor Lee Brand.

According to Fresno City Councilman Garry Bredefeld, the mayor and a majority of councilmembers initially sought a mandatory order that included criminal penalties of $1,000 fines and up to a year in jail for violators.

But Hall argued strongly against a mandatory order, as did Quan, early Wednesday morning. By the time the order was announced that afternoon, it had become a voluntary directive.

Asked about how the directive unfolded, Brand said in an emailed statement to GV Wire: “We had a frank conversation about the city’s steps to best curb the coronavirus, we came to a consensus, and made a positive decision.  I appreciate the honesty and the spirit of cooperation that exists at City Hall and we are doing everything we can to protect the health and safety of our residents.”

Bredefeld Opposed Making Fresno Order Mandatory

In a telephone interview with GV Wire on Friday morning, Bredefeld said that he backed Hall’s and Quan’s position.

 

“When I became aware of what they were attempting to do, I met with the city manager and the police chief, and expressed that that could not be allowed to happen and supported their efforts to make sure the mandatory order involving criminal penalties and fines was not signed.” — Fresno City Councilman Garry Bredefeld

“If not for the city manager’s refusal to sign that (original) order and strongly standing up for the people of Fresno, the mayor and the majority of the city council would have enacted an order, where if you did not stay in your home and left it, you could have been subjected to a criminal penalty of a year in jail and a $1,000 fine, which would have been outrageous and completely insane,” Bredefeld said.

“When I became aware of what they were attempting to do, I met with the city manager and the police chief, and expressed that that could not be allowed to happen and supported their efforts to make sure the mandatory order involving criminal penalties and fines was not signed.”

Newsom’s Order Overrides Fresno’s

However, Newsom’s mandatory order Thursday night superseded Fresno’s call to voluntarily shelter at home. Newsom said he doesn’t expect police will be needed to enforce his stay-at-home order, saying “social pressure” already has led to social distancing statewide.

“I don’t believe the people of California need to be told through law enforcement that it’s appropriate just to home isolate,” he said.

Hall wrote that he understood arrests might be necessary at some point if voluntary compliance proved ineffective, but said a “majority will do the right thing without your threats and will support our government and rule of law after this is over.”

Photo of seniors shopping during CVOID-19 pandemic in Sherman Oaks, Californiak

Customers wearing protective masked shop the fresh produce section at Gelson’s supermarket that opened special morning hours to serve seniors 60-years and older due to coronavirus concerns, Friday, March 20, 2020, in the Sherman Oaks section of Los Angeles on Friday, March 20, 2020. California’s 40 million people are all but confined to their homes in the nation’s biggest lockdown yet, as America’s governors watch with growing alarm as southern Europe buckles under the strain of the coronavirus outbreak. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

Hall Is Critical of Government Employees

Hall praised police officers but had harsh words for other government employees, including city workers.

I am ashamed of our civil servants. We all gladly accept the pay, benefits, and security that our hardworking taxpayers provide us to serve them, however at the first sign of trouble, we abandon them and go home.” — Fresno Police Chief Andy Hall 

“I am ashamed of our civil servants. We all gladly accept the pay, benefits, and security that our hardworking taxpayers provide us to serve them, however at the first sign of trouble, we abandon them and go home,” Hall wrote.

Earlier this week, Quan, the city manager, directed city employees 65 and older and those with chronic health problems to stay home from work as a precaution against coronavirus infection.

Hall met with his officers this week, expecting them to work. He said eight of his 800-plus sworn officers went home. Another 48 non-sworn police department employees also left because of Quan’s directive.

“If you are receiving a paycheck, you owe them to work. I don’t think they should be getting paid to stay home,” Hall told GV Wire Thursday night. “If they chose to stay home, they should be treated like every other citizen, and use their generous government benefits or stay home without pay.”

“Now is not the time for us to cut and run,” Hall wrote in the letter.

City Union Leader Responds to Hall’s Comments

“I am aware that these may be his personal feelings, but as a professional, I think he is disconnected to what is happening to our nation,” — FCEA President Sam Frank

Sam Frank, president of the Fresno City Employees Association, disagreed with Hall’s assessment.

“I am aware that these may be his personal feelings, but as a professional, I think he is disconnected to what is happening to our nation,” Frank said.

Frank said the federal and state government is committing billions to help businesses cope with COVID-19.

“If we are helping employees here using taxpayer dollars, and the president is helping employers … using taxpayer dollars, what’s the difference?” Frank said. “I don’t see the point in being disappointed with the civil servants.”

Frank said he listened to Hall make similar comments at a meeting of other union members. He agreed with it — until Hall spoke about government employees.

“I don’t think it is up to the Chief to make that call. I respect him and he is more than entitled to his opinion. But, I don’t share his opinion.”

Hall Says Opinions Shaped by 40 Years’ Experience

During his GV Wire interview, Hall said his opinions were formed from his 40 years in the police department, including considerable experience with crowd control.

He supported closing bars, because that’s where people congregate.

“If you have nothing to do, you tend to stay home. It was mandating where I have the problem,” Hall said.

“Let the community absorb this and not create a panic. I’ve worked crowd control most of my career. If I push a crowd too fast, it leads to panic. If we address them, they tend to comply.”

Hall also said he’s barely taken a sick day during his career, accumulating 3,000 hours of unused leave time.

“I’m saving it in case I get cancer or something happens. That is my insurance policy. I thank the taxpayers every day. I hope I never have to use it.”

Views on Governor’s Statewide Action

As of Thursday evening, Hall had not seen Gov. Newsom’s stay-at-home order, but said he preferred that people have “a chance to absorb this before it becomes mandatory.”

He said enforcing Fresno’s order, voluntary or not, when other jurisdictions have not imposed similar restrictions made the job more difficult.

“Consistency is important. Something enforced throughout the state is more palatable,” Hall said. “We will come together. We will have a plan.”

Police Union President Supports Hall

FPOA President Todd Frazier agreed with Hall’s sentiments.

“He had some serious constitutional issues that he raised to the council and mayor before they implemented their current order,” Frazier told GV Wire.

“We are trying to maintain a level of civility and calmness in the community, and we agree there are serious concerns with the constitutionality issues he has legitimately raised (regarding the order if it were mandatory). The FPOA applauded this email and we wholeheartedly support him in the position he states in it.”

Read a copy of the letter, first posted on Twitter by former Fresno City Councilman Jerry Duncan:

11 Responses

  1. Stuart Chandler

    Chief Hall’s input reflects exceptional wisdom and a clear understanding of the Constitutions of the United States and the State of California. I too believe that we can and will pull together in this challenging time without sacrificing the very liberties that are the core of our strength. I join with countless others in praying for those in authority – from the President to the Governor to the Mayor to the Chief of Police.

    Reply
    • Bill Thaker

      Stuart Chandler is correct. Frank asks “what’s the point” the point is we have a city council president trying to criminalize the “Shelter at Home” and trying to use the police as his own private police against citizens of Fresno. Thereby causing more potential liability toward the City of Fresno for wrongful incarceration or worse if they have to shoot in the line of duty. This liability occurs at all police departments – yet Arias hypocritically promoted a “military police” atmosphere in Fresno.

      Frank is a union guy and states the government stimulus checks as comming. Union workers have a safety net to guard against disasters . Restaurant workers dont have a union …bizarre that a union leader would support any kind of arrests of civilians out trying to work.
      Thank you Pplice Chief Hall for standing with the taxpayers of Fresno.

      I cant imagine any chief of Police being too enthusiastic at supporting the lame policies of someone who talked down to them, was disrespectfully arrogant and claimed “more than half of city budget goes to police department” then flatly refused our chief of police police new handguns for the police department.
      If anyone knows liability Chandler should know he is an attorney that has filed against city of Fresno.

      Reply
  2. Steve Brandau

    Thank you Chief Hall! Proud of you for speaking up and adding some checks and balances!

    Reply
  3. Joe Barron

    Dear chief hall,
    I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but science doesn’t give a rat’s a** about your opinion, but if you want to be useful, get some Doctors lined up behind you who think your wisdom is the way to go. Some people who are versed in respiratory disorders, geriatrics, immunodeficiency conditions, and of course viral infectious diseases. Otherwise you are very fortunate that you are not being sued for medical malpractice. Also, save your shame for some gathering where you and your gentle fellows can grunt and soft stroke each others egos while peddling your “virtue” as exemplary behavior.

    Also, perhaps you might want to tone down the righteous indignation and show some f**king empathy for these workers who are sheltering in place with their families, mainly because this is a great time of uncertainty.

    As for your fear of people losing their constitutional rights, the Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights protects the right to peaceably assemble, and that usually involves some sort of protected speech, but it is also balanced against the implied police power of the state and its duty to protect the public. That’s where the courts come in. So, if you want a court battle, that will most likely turn into a circus, and nobody comes out looking like they are a saint, then by all means, keep doing what your doing with GVWire giving you a megaphone, and whispering in your ear about how your “…cause being just and your quarrel, honorable.” As for Mr. Bredefeld’s commentary, his efforts are a litany of distractions, but as we all know, “…for Gary is an ‘Honorable’ man.”

    Reply
    • Bill Thacker

      Yet you and your jackals are the first to bark when Fresno Police Department must justifiably shoot in bv the line of duty. Yet just like a hypocrite you protect Miguel’s order that those civilians not complying with the stay at home order can be arrested .

      Reply
    • Irene

      Perhaps you should try to police the city of Fresno without a police force. The man can’t do it all by himself! Though, admittedly, he looks like he might be old enough to qualify to just stay home, so Fresno can be an entirely police-less city… just as the city council thinks they should criminalize Fresno residents for not staying home. Who was supposed to do that? Who is supposed to deal with real crime while the now nonexistent police force is dealing with that? Hall is just being realistic. You are not.

      Reply
    • Bill Thacker

      Tommy
      Huffington blog is hardly a source to quote, it’s best to quote our local county of Fresno Departnent of health from Dr. Vohra. Which bases their medical protocol on cdc.org
      Of the COVID -19 cases in Fresno county the majority can be traced back to travel out of the country
      To date approximately 1,200 have been tested for COVID -19 with 5% diagnosed positive as it mimics the flu .
      The flu has killed much more on a local and national basis. Use the SAME percautions

      Reply
  4. Polly Anna

    Chief Hall says the reason he opposed a mandatory ordinance is that the panic it would cause would outweigh its benefits. He argues that he came to this conclusion based on his experience with crowd control as a police officer.

    Well now we have the perfect experiment to test his theory: Governor Newsom enacted exactly the type of ordinance Hall warned against. Where is the panic? What has changed from the time that Fresno was under a voluntary ordinance to now that we’re under a statewide mandatory ordinance? Hopefully a reporter will ask Hall to defend his position in light of this new evidence, given that he’s advocating for things that could potentially pul local lives at risk.

    Maybe we should leave these decisions up to public health experts rather than people citing folk knowledge from their days as a traffic cop.

    Reply
  5. Anette Bernadino

    In related news, Fresno Police Chief Andy Hall is a total moron.

    No one WANTS to stay home. No one LIKES what is going on right now. Italy took the same line of thinking as Chief Hall and their death rate is somewhere in the 9-10% range.

    Are we as a community, state and country willing to sacrifice 10% of our population so those of you that don’t like these rules can foolishly attempt to try and continue with life as if there was no global health crisis?

    The selfishness of people is utterly astounding and shameful.

    Reply
    • Irene

      He’s a moron? Why? Were you planning to join his police force to give out tickets to people, since the rest of his police force, including him, is qualified to stay home? You’d be ridiculously busy. There’s nothing about a stay-at-home order that means Fresno’s typical crime rate will drop (in fact, it will probably increase because people have more time on their hands and criminals don’t obey government orders anyway). What is he supposed to say? “Ma’am, I’m sorry you were robbed, but I only have three men left on the force, and they’re all busy at different residents giving out tickets to people for holding a bar-b-que”? If you don’t stay home, the consequence is you get sick and might die, and Hall said education was necessary to make that clear to people, but you don’t send his police force home while also giving him loads more work to accomplish, especially when he, himself, qualifies to stay home due to his age. He’s being very selfless just to keep dealing with Fresno’s crime through this. Stop criminalizing everything and sending his police force home at the same time.

      Reply

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