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The Fresno City Council will consider immediately outlawing the carotid restraint hold by police at its Thursday meeting. It’s one of several significant items on the council’s meeting agenda:


Also in Politics 101:

  • City Council considers carotid restraint ban.
  • Hold would still be allowed under certain circumstances.
  • Could there be a complaint line for face mask non-compliance?
  • Details on the city’s $5 million COVID-19 testing plan.
  • The city’s hiring freeze policy offers a clue on the police chief search.
  • When marijuana shop licenses may be issued.
  • Purchase deal for new community center.

Carotid Restraint Ban

Since the death of George Floyd on May 25 in Minneapolis, and the subsequent protests nationwide and in Fresno about racism and policing, there has been renewed emphasis on certain police techniques.

GV Wire Reporter David Taub

David Taub

Politics 101

The Fresno City Council will consider outlawing the carotid restraint hold by police immediately at Thursday’s meeting.

“The carotid artery technique has been demonstrated to be one of the most ineffective and most dangerous techniques in police operations,” City Council President Miguel Arias —the resolution’s author — said. “It sends a clear message to officers that this is not a technique that they’re going to utilize on our residents.”

Still Allowed Under Some Circumstances

Police Chief Andy Hall did not offer a comment, saying through his spokesman that he wants to hear from the public.

On June 5, Hall ordered a temporary ban on the use of the carotid hold. Earlier this week, he said he wasn’t ready to permanently outlaw the move.

“I think if your life is in danger … I would be concerned about totally ending something because there are situations where if they save a life, then then it might be appropriate,” Hall said during the police budget hearings Monday.

The resolution the city considered that, allowing for the carotid hold if “such use is for the preservation of life or to prevent serious bodily injury.”

According to Fresno police, officers used the hold twice last year and there have been no reported in-custody deaths due to the use of carotid restraint.

State Legislators Working to Ban Technique

The state legislature is considering AB 1196, which would ban the restraint hold — which puts pressure on the carotid artery and restricts blood supply to the brain (sometimes also referred to as a “sleeper hold”).

Gov. Gavin Newsom indicated support for the bill, and through an executive order, barred the state’s police training agency from teaching the maneuver.

The state’s Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training will discuss the issue at its meeting on Thursday. Its staff is recommending an end to teaching the technique in all POST-certified courses.

Complaint Hotline for Violations of Face Mask Rule

Councilman Nelson Esparza is proposing an update to the city’s COVID-19 emergency code. He wants to make it mandatory that all businesses and government facilities require masks.

Through an emergency order in place, mask wearing is mandatory in all businesses and government facilities, and “strongly” encouraged in public spaces.

The change would also establish a reporting hotline number “where a customer or employee may anonymously report violations” and allow for administrative citations for “willful violations.”

Councilman Garry Bredefeld, long an opponent of mandatory mask wearing, had strong words for Esparza’s idea.

“We should be helping our businesses reopen and thrive again.  Instead, my colleague comes up with ideas where neighbors or employees would snitch on another person if they don’t wear a mask.  This is misguided government policy and overreach at its worst.  What’s next—mask police?” Bredefeld said.

The updated order would also require businesses to inform their employees if a customer or employee has tested positive for COVID-19.

$5 Million for Mobile COVID-19 Testing

Using federal stimulus money from the CARES Act, the city will partner with UCSF Fresno to provide mobile COVID-19 testing in underserved areas. The goal is to provide 15,000 tests.

UCSF Fresno spokeswoman Brandy Nikaido said some of the staff will be existing UCSF Fresno employees and some will be new. The medical director, at a prorated salary of $300,000, will be a school faculty member.

City documents show that of the testing program’s $5 million budget, more than $2 million will go for salaries and expenses of the team of 29 for just seven months — through the end of the year.

In addition to medical personnel, the funds cover drivers (at more than $20 an hour, the same as a medical assistant); and an IT professional at $38.46 an hour. The funding includes a 10% administrative fee, which equals about $454,000.

Testing would be conducted by the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub, a Bay Area collaborative of UC Berkeley, UCSF and Stanford.

Hiring Freezes

Mayor Lee Brand is asking the council to approve a city hiring freeze through Aug. 2. This means vacant positions will remain that way, and no raises will be authorized unless it is already contractually obligated.

There are some exemptions to the freeze, mainly for temporary workers and graduating police cadets.

There is also a hint that the search for Fresno’s next top cop may start soon.

“Nonetheless, the recruitment process may commence for positions that may be filled following expiration of this resolution, particularly including recruitment of a new police chief,” the resolution says.

Current chief Andy Hall faces mandatory retirement next spring.

Change to Marijuana Sale Ordinance

While the establishment of retail marijuana shops previously received a preliminary green light from city council, regulations remain to be worked out before any can open.

Councilman Nelson Esparza is looking to revise a section of the regulations requiring businesses to sign labor peace agreements with their employees.

As it stands now, those agreements are required for shops with 10 or more employees. Now, Esparza wants to reduce that number to five or more.

Stores that do not comply may not receive the necessary licensing from the city.

The city has completed a required environmental review and Council President Miguel Arias estimates licenses could be awarded by next March.

Purchase of Community Center

The council will vote on purchasing a vacant office building to be used as a future community center.

The city will buy the 27,000 square-foot facility at 5191 N. Sixth Street (blocks away from Bulldog Stadium) for $675,000. The seller is Proactive Enterprises, LLC. According to state documents, the company is based in Glendale.

The council approved funding for the purchase earlier this year.

This empty office building near Fresno State will be used for a community center (GV Wire/David Taub)

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