Paco Balderrama is Fresno’s next police chief.
The outgoing Oklahoma City deputy chief announced his departure to Fresno in a news release in that city.
“Although it’s not easy to leave this city and department that I have called home for over two decades, a new challenge and opportunity await my family and me in Fresno, which I’m very excited to begin,” as reported KOCO News.
He will be officially introduced to the media and city staff at a 2 p.m. virtual news conference.
His first official day is Jan. 11.
20-Plus Years Experience
Juan Francisco Balderrama, 44 — Paco is his nickname — comes from Oklahoma City with more than 20 years of law enforcement experience.
Growing up in El Paso, Texas, Balderrama moved to Oklahoma City while still in school. After graduation, he and his twin brother Beto worked for the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Department for four years as detention officers. Paco achieved the rank of sergeant.
In 1999, the Balderrama brothers joined the Oklahoma City Police Department. Paco served as a captain and spokesperson for the department. He was promoted to major in 2017 and deputy chief in 2019, the first Latino to reach such a role in the city.
His duties as deputy chief include the Special Operations Bureau, overseeing criminal intelligence and violent crimes.
Balderrama has held many roles with the OCPD. According to his bio, he has served as “patrol officer, field training officer (FTO), IMPACT officer, D.A.R.E. Instructor, and Public Information Officer.”
He has served on a number of civic boards including the Latino Community Development Agency and the Police Athletic League.
WATCH: Chief Paco Balderrama: “Every police department should mirror its community.’
Balderrama graduated from Oklahoma State in 1998, with additional degrees from the FBI Academy, Mid-America Christian University and Central Oklahoma.
He has been married to his wife Kyla for 11 years with three children — daughter Hayden and sons Jude and Jenson.
Praise from OKC
Balderrama is leaving Oklahoma City with high praise.
John George, president of the Oklahoma City Fraternal Order of Police — the police union — said they will miss Balderrama.
“He’s a very good communicator. He seems to care about the troops a lot. He’s great in the community, very community oriented,” George said.
George says it will be a “big loss” for Oklahoma City’s Hispanic community.
“He handles the public extremely well. Even though being the FOP and being him being a chief, obviously we don’t always agree eye to eye. What I can tell you about Chief Balderrama is he’s always willing to sit down. He always wants to listen to your concerns and he wants to try to work,” George said. “He’s always willing to sit down to see if there’s a good solution to the problem.
George could not recall even a controversy regarding Balderrama.
“It’s been a pleasure to work with him over the last few years,” George said.
WATCH: Incoming Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderrama Discusses Growing Up Poor in El Paso and Police Interactions with Disadvantaged Communities
Incoming Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderrama’s 2017 presentation to University of Oklahoma’s Institute for the Study of Human Flourishing. (He shares his personal experience growing up in El Paso, Texas starting at 6:11 in the video.)
This Year’s Chief Search
The new chief will succeed Chief Andrew Hall, who is scheduled to retire next year.
Hall was the surprise selection as chief last year to replace the retiring Jerry Dyer. Despite a nationwide search, Mayor Lee Brand chose Hall even though he did not apply for the job. At the time, Hall was deputy chief, nearing the end of his 40-year career with Fresno police.
Brand vowed to select another new chief. Dyer, who won a March 2020 election for mayor — he takes office in January — was also involved in picking the new chief.
When Brand selected Hall last year, it was understood it would be a short-time selection. Like his predecessor Dyer, Hall faced a mandatory retirement by April.
Hall has said he will stay if requested, to help with the transition.
7 Candidates Interviewed
While the city engaged with the public in several meetings in 2019 in what qualities they sought in a chief, the 2020 selection was not public.
According to GV Wire℠ sources who could not speak publicly because of personnel policies, the city interviewed seven semifinalists.
Other candidates included:
— Mark Salazar, Fresno Police Department deputy chief
— Larry Esquivel, former police chief of San Jose and Tracy.
— Larry Satterwhite, Houston Police Department assistant chief.
— Chris Davis, Portland Police Bureau deputy chief.
— Malik Aziz, Dallas Police Department major.
— Jason Lando, Pittsburgh Bureau of Police commander.
An eighth candidate was scheduled for an interview but withdrew from the process.