Social justice issues are having a direct impact on training and recruiting new sworn peace officers in the Central Valley.

In fact, the Clovis Police Department hasn’t filled a single sworn position all year. And, the Fresno Police Department is having a tough time finding qualified diverse candidates.

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Despite the pandemic, a new class of police cadets recently started their 25-week training at Fresno City College. Masks, social distancing, and hand sanitizer have kept the program mostly immune from COVID-19. The Fire Academy is also on campus, as are a handful of other in-person classes.

After just a few weeks, the Police Academy has lost 15 cadets. Early exits aren’t unusual, but the reasons behind these departures are out of the norm. Academy leadership attributes some of the departures to the country’s social climate after high-profile police shooting cases such as George Floyd and Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

One cadet told GV Wire℠ that her family is scared about her going out onto the streets of Merced, but she’s persevering anyway.

Fresno Police Academy Challenges

“We did have a couple of cadets that just decided that the world is just a little crazy, it just doesn’t really have that appeal that it used to.” — Timothy Hahn, Fresno City College Police Academy coordinator

“Typically most of the individuals that come into this profession understand what they’re getting involved with,” said Fresno City College Police Academy coordinator Timothy Hahn.

“Obviously with some of the major incidents that have occurred in the United States, whether it be a George Floyd or Jacob Blake incident, they can have an impact on a cadet and what they’re going to have to do in the future and what they’re going to have to deal with.”

He said that cadets are well aware of the intense debate about policing in America.

“If anything, I feel like sometimes they become more committed. They want to make a difference,” Hahn said.

Still, the current class started with 56 cadets. It’s down to 41.

Fresno City College Police Academy cadets during a class on Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020. (GV Wire/Jim Jakobs)

Hahn says he and his instructors do not shy from talking about the difficult issues, including police ethics and professionalism.

“That’s one of the core things we discuss at the beginning,” said Hahn.

He says for people that just want to “try” the police academy, they typically start the coursework and don’t last very long.

“Not because we ask them to leave, but they start to realize the gravity of the position they’re going to tackle and they make the decision themselves that this is probably not the best thing for them,” said Hahn.

“We did have a couple of cadets that just decided that the world is just a little crazy, it just doesn’t really have that appeal that it used to,” said Hahn.

Ninety-six cadets graduated this summer despite COVID-19. During the pandemic, only one cadet has contracted COVID-19. He quarantined for a couple of weeks and is now back in class.

Police Cadet Feels Family Pressure

“It’s a dramatic change for my family. I get a lot of concerns about safety. They (family) want me to have a long life, as do I.” — Marissa Bolanos, Police Academy cadet

Cadet Marissa Bolanos already has a job lined up with the Merced Police Department.

GV Wire℠ asked her what she thought about recent incidents in the country.

“I think it’s kind of devastating, to be honest. I was shocked that people just all of a sudden have chosen a career to hate,” Bolanos answered.

“It doesn’t make me not want to be a cop,” she said. “Certain communities, they still do back their police officers, so it makes being in the academy worthwhile still.”

Does she have any reservations about law enforcement as a career?

“This is something I knew that I wanted to do for a while. When I put my mind to something, I’m going to do it,” said Bolanos. “My reason for doing it is, I know I can help people”

Bolanos said that she respects everyone’s right to a political opinion, but she urges everyone to think twice when they see a police officer.

“Flag a cop down, have a conversation with them and you’ll realize not every officer is bad,” she said.

But Bolanos’ family is concerned about her becoming the first in their family to be sworn in as a police officer.

“My family is a little more timid,” she said. “It’s a dramatic change for my family. I get a lot of concerns about safety. They (family) want me to have a long life, as do I.”

She wants to be a sergeant someday, but her first goal is a K9 handler.

Clovis Police Department

“I can’t share exact numbers, but I can tell you that 90% of the applicants during the past 6 months have been disqualified.”  Lt. Jim Munro, Clovis Police Department 

The Clovis Police Department says it’s seeing fewer applications compared to years past. Public information officer Lt. Jim Munro also says it’s fair to say the quality of applicants has dropped as well.

“We are finding that drug use and background issues are becoming quite a problem when trying to hire the best people out there,” Munro said by email. “I can’t share exact numbers, but I can tell you that 90% of the applicants during the past 6 months have been disqualified.”

In 2016, Clovis PD hired seven sworn police officers. In 2017, that number dropped to six. Nine were hired in 2018 and, in 2019, the department hired only two.

“In 2020, we have yet to hire a qualified candidate,” said Munro.

The department has nine open positions and continues to interview through COVID-19. However, some of the positions are frozen because of the pandemic’s squeeze on the city budget.

Fresno Police Department

“The bias (against officers) starts with a child. Now adults are asking them why they’d want to get into law enforcement with the way things are now.”  Sgt. Paul Zarasua, Fresno Police Department recruit unit supervisor

“Bring me the candidates!” says Sgt. Paul Zarasua, recruit unit supervisor for the Fresno Police Department.

The department’s goal is hiring officers reflective of the community they’ll serve. But, says Zarasua, “Getting enough diversity is difficult.”

He points to the cadets at the academy as proof of what he’s saying. He says there’s one African American, three Asian Americans, and about five female candidates.

He believes part of the problem is that stereotypes about officers are more magnified in today’s frenzied political climate.

“The bias (against officers) starts with a child. Now, adults are asking them why they’d want to get into law enforcement with the way things are now,” said Zarasua.

Couple that attitude with the need to maintain high hiring standards and you get a picture of the challenge for police recruiters.

“Our community demands it of us. We process many applicants, they just have a hard time meeting our standards,” Zarasua said.


2 Responses

  1. Bernard Rieux

    Being a cop in America has never been safer. In 2020, COVID-19 displaced car accidents as the leading cause of death among police officers. The hero cop image they paint of themselves constantly under threat to violence isn’t borne out by the data; it’s a myth promoted in attempt silence legitimate calls for reform by implying that criticizing the police is dangerous.

    Maybe fewer people want to be police officers due to all the high-profile examples of cops behaving dishonorably on camera recently. The responsibility for the reputation of cops always manages to fall onto everyone except for the cops themselves.

    Also note how right-wing outlets like GVWire continue to push the notion that “social justice” types are to blame for putting law enforcement lives at risk even as far-right boogaloos boys are the ones actually killing cops.

    • William

      Bernard; GV Wire a right-wing outlet ? That is meant to be comical right? They are anything but right-wing but not progressive restorative justice goons, burning, looting and murdering at whim.
      Now, we are so much more at ease Bernard explained the life of a cop so perfectly without any bias. From the outside looking in, that takes talent folks and lots of hatred.
      Lets see you survive without Law Enforcement, with the criminals King Newsom lets out of California prisons 25,000 since April the result was chaos on our streets and spike in crime by 300% Nah Bernard couldn’t survive on the mean streets of Fresno with the far-left looters, shooters, and arsonists. Not at all.
      This article was inaccurate, any police academy full of students that may have a doubt then this is not the right job for them. I also question the education level of the academy recruits, at City College indicating they do not have a 4 year degree.
      The average police officer or peace officer or community officer or Law Enforcement Officer in Fresno county now has a 4 year degree. Many recruited from other areas trying to escape the left week boogaloos boy/girls getting into government trying to defund the police.
      Its best they move on if this job is not cut out for them, we want long term careers and committments.
      Its still a proud job to have no matter how many far-left progressive marxist want to spew hate, attack police (only in a pack) and kill cops …even black cops despite the hypocrisy of BLM, they do not believe ALL black lives matter not black children killed on a daily basis in Chicago. Not Black Conservatives or Black Cops.
      Bernard’s twisted hatred has about as much logic as his ignoramous statement that cop behave dishonorably on camera. What do you call the terrorism of BLM and Antifa? Just a “summer of love” destroying people’s property, livelihoods, burning cars, smashing windows and humorously acting like they captured a new town while they all whither away from lack of leadership trying to create a CHAZ or CHOP and taking weeks to figure out how they would supply food to the camp. Gee we could steal it? Or maybe just kill people as they leave the grocery story and grab their groceries.
      Yep if Bernard every needs the cops and they are not there for him he would drop to his knees and cry like a sniffling coward for his mommy or for the nearest police officer to save his sorry behind. He would sing a different tune Mr. Marxist “give me free sh*t”
      you reform your attitude the police will adjust as they always have. They don’t need a bunch of weak wristed peanuts telling them how to reform that is an ongoing process and they certainly don’t need a gaggle of unprofessional radical leftists who tweet #BurnItDown on some BS committee for reform.


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