I have a blunt message for liberals clamoring to “defund” the Fresno Police Department and dramatically reduce the presence of officers.
It won’t happen. Nor should it.
Cops aren’t responsible for the city’s ills: poverty exacerbated by underinvestment in south Fresno, decades of redlining, and a school district that has failed students and their families since the early 1980s.
Ownership belongs to Fresno leaders who ignored the poverty, the substandard housing, and their responsibility to help the residents of south Fresno move up and into the middle class.
Nor are the cops answerable for the draconian federal prison sentences that tore apart families of color and enabled gangs to get their hooks into kids from fatherless homes. Blame the Clinton White House for its short-sighted, tough-on-crime mantra.
Yet, when I read comments on social media, it’s as if some people want to pin all of this on Fresno cops. Moreover, in some quarters, the fantasy is that the Fresno Commission on Police Reform is somehow supposed to fix all that ails Fresno.
You Want to Defund Police in a Country With 393 Million Guns?
The truth is, Fresno is a violent city in a violent country — a country with 393 million guns, according to the Small Arms Survey. Many of those guns belong to law-abiding citizens. Too many are in the hands of bad actors who will shoot you dead for your wallet, to cover up the rape of a young girl, or to protect their turf.
Unfortunately, Fresno has more than its share of bad actors with guns. Their legacy is a trail of victims whose lives are snuffed out or altered forever by someone who doesn’t give a damn about the consequences of squeezing the trigger.
Fresno’s police officers track down the killers, rapists, strong-arm robbers, muggers, and drug dealers who torment our city. It’s a demanding job that requires guts, savvy, and a desire to serve the community. Thank goodness, there are still men and women willing to do this job when their every move is second-guessed.
New York Black Leaders Now Want Return of Anti-Crime Unit
Even as the Black Lives Matter Movement and its supporters demand that police departments be defunded, big cities are seeing spikes in violent crimes. And, in New York City, Black leaders are demanding that a disbanded Anti-Crime Unit be put back on the street.
“Babies are not supposed to be wearing these in a coffin,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, holding up a pair of baby shoes after the killing of a 1-year-old. “Right now, bad guys are saying if you don’t see a blue and white you can do whatever you want.”
Police Chief Andy Hall: Reform, Yes. Defund, No!
On Thursday, Fresno Police Chief Andy Hall inserted himself into the reform debate with a Facebook post on the department’s page.
“I am troubled to announce a dramatic increase in violent crime in our city,” Hall wrote. “Like most major cities across this country, Fresno has also experienced a surge in violent crime. In fact, the Fresno Police Department has responded to a 71% increase in shootings and a 64% increase in stabbings since April.”
Hall went on to say, “I support the Police Reform Commission and their efforts to improve community policing. However, I hope these efforts are not at the expense of holding those accountable who prey upon our citizens. Effective community policing requires a significant investment in your police department. Defunding and de-policing is not the answer.
“After 42 years of serving this community, I can no longer stand silent and I am compelled to speak out for the silent victims of crime.”
Many of the people serving on the reform commission know exactly what Hall is talking about. They’ve seen schoolkids shot dead or paralyzed. They’ve comforted grieving families. And, they’ve shed tears over the senseless violence. I expect that they will focus their efforts on real solutions instead of dangerous, half-baked experiments.
Reform Ideas to Consider
Fresno PD isn’t perfect. Far from it. The many millions of dollars in officer-involved shooting settlements attest to that.
So, what should the commission examine as it brainstorms, fine-tunes, and ships its recommendations to Mayor Lee Brand and the city council?
Let’s start with formulating a system that quickly weeds out officers who are unfit for the job. Then write a roadmap for implementing community policing, which reduces crime and increases the trust between residents and officers. Tailor the Advance Peace anti-gang initiative so that it fits Fresno. Ask that the police budget set aside more funding for training on implicit bias and de-escalation techniques. And, insist that the department launch an initiative to promote officers of color into leadership roles.
Another idea to consider is using unarmed (but uniform-wearing) support officers to respond to the minor disturbance calls that eat up much of a sworn officer’s time. These same support officers could be teamed with county social workers to help get homeless people into shelter and support services.
Seeking to curb racial profiling, the Berkeley City Council has voted to replace police with unarmed civilians for traffic stops. I’m betting it never happens. While most traffic stops are routine, a few turn violent in a heartbeat. Asking civilians — even after rigorous training — to perform this duty is a recipe for disaster.
Bottom line: Change is a must if Fresno PD is to better serve the community, particularly neighborhoods of color. But cries to defund the department are delusional.