Police chief Andy Hall wants to turn a recently vacated police substation into an employee mental health facility.
Hall said that officer suicides are on the rise. While there is a mental health counselling office at police headquarters, Hall wants a more private facility.
He proposed turning the former substation at Cedar and Butler avenues in southeast Fresno — police just opened a new substation —into a police counselling center.
“This is an opportunity to get it off site where they can come in and have an opportunity to to talk to somebody without the stigma that may come with it,” Hall said.
Police union president Todd Frazier says officers witnessing violence and accidents need help.
“It does take a human toll,” Frazier said, advocating for police mental health. “What we need is to have a comprehensive facility like the wellness center.”
Frazier said there have been more than 20 retired officers who have committe suicide.
The council discussed funding to refurbishing the building, using public and private money.
Also in Politics 101:
- Chief Hall says crime is up.
- General Plan committee recommends reparations.
- Fresno City Council to hear from police auditor.
Chief Hall: Crime Up
Hall made his budget presentation to the city council on Tuesday.
He’s asking for an $11 million increase to the department’s budget, for a total of $196 million from the general fund.
According to his crime figures, there has been a 31% increase in homicides and 96% increase in shootings, year to date. Most happened after April, when pandemic stay-at-home orders went into effect.
Hall blamed the state’s $0 bail order in reaction to the pandemic and early release which he said resulted in more criminals on the streets than in jail.
“Unfortunately, we can’t do our job unless the rest of the justice system does,” Hall told the council.
Additionally, Hall said that 26 police officers and three civilian staff tested positive for COVID-19.
Councilman Mike Karbassi responded to critics of his support for police.
“You can support PD and not call for these ridiculous, I’m sorry, bull**** policy of defunding. I’m sorry, but I have to say it. You can also support mental health services. We have to do both,” Karbassi said.
Hall agrees the department could do better with calls for service related to homeless people and mental illness, but says defunding is not the answer.
Arias also voiced support for the police funding request, but said there are many factors to reducing crime that are beyond the department’s control. Arias wants the county and federal governments to be held responsible as well.
“We’ll give you the money. But we want to see some actionable steps that also require our counterparts across the street to do a better job of holding people and managing the COVID spread,” Arias said.
Councilwoman Esmeralda Soria wants more resources in parks, housing and economic opportunity.
“Today we’re faced with a crisis beyond the violence that exists in our community. It’s poverty. It’s racial inequality. That is what is happening, guys. And we can’t be blind to that,” she said.
General Plan Committee Recommends Reparations
The Fresno committee tasked with reviewing the city’s general plan forwarded a recommendation to consider reparations for the city’s black community.
The General Plan Implementation Review Committee met Tuesday night via Zoom to review 60 motions to forward to the City Council.
The committee approved a motion that would “provide a type of reparation for black residents where the city would apologize and amend for decades of enforcing and implementing discriminatory policies that destroyed black communities.”
Committee member Grecia Elenes — a policy advocate with the Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability who proposed the motion — did not rule out the concept of reparations in the form of money.
“I wouldn’t say what it is that folks would want to see or implement. I won’t say yes and I won’t say no to that,” Elenes said.
Darius Assemi, president and CEO of Granville Homes, wanted the motion to include other ethnic groups, including Native Americans and Armenians. After debate, the committee disagreed. He voted no because of that exclusion.
Assemi is also publisher of GV Wire.
“I would like to not include the Armenian community, not to say that they are not deserving. However, I think that is a separate motion that I encourage,” Elenes said.
The committee’s recommendations will now go to the council for further discussion.
City Council Agenda: Finalizing Cannabis Business
Other items of note at Thursday’s council meeting:
— City police auditor John Gliatta will present a workshop to the council at 2 p.m. Gliatta generated controversy when he delayed the release of his report of a 2019 incident. The report, which normally would have been released in July, was instead held for release until earlier this month. Gliatta found the police used excessive force in arresting 17 year-old London Wallace in January.
— The council will vote to approve a $44,300 contract with non-profit Fresno Barrios Unidos for its “Mask Up” campaign. Some of the spending, $2,000, would go toward a group called USpark, “to share campaign and uplift youth and influencer narratives.”
USpark is active on Twitter, with posts that are often politically oriented.
Another $8,000 would go toward youth and influencer stipends for people to “post, share and highlight the COVID 19 mask campaign.”
— The council will finalize the process for cannabis sellers to operate in the city. Application fees will be $7,920 and will be accepted starting Oct. 19. Fees will be waived for “all qualified social equity applicants.”
— The council will vote to approve buying a 220,000 square foot building formerly used as a maintenance facility for the Fresno Bee for $5.75 million. The location at 1625 G Street, will be used for the city’s public utilities department.
— The council will consider passing the Responsible Neighborhood Market Act.