A week after the conviction of a Minneapolis police officer for the murder of George Floyd, the Fresno Police Reform Implementation Team got to work.
The eight-member team, led by former councilman — and chairman of last year’s committee — Oliver Baines, met for the first time Tuesday.
Baines was sporting a huge bandage on the left side of his face after being a victim of an assault last week. He talked about the purpose of the implementation team during the public Zoom meeting.
“We are thinking about this in a very mechanical sense, how to do something, not if to do something,” Baines said. “Our role is very, very narrow. We have 31 recommendations that we want to work with.”
The remainder of the reform committee’s 73 recommendations can be implemented by the mayor, council, or police department.
Police Chief Reviewing Use of Force Guidelines
Police Chief Paco Balderrama said he has a department advisory staff to act on recommendations. He is actively reviewing eight policies — including the use of force.
“We have to take it slow, and we have to get it right,” Balderrama said.
Only one member, D’Aungillique Jackson, was absent. Baines still acknowledged her role in bringing the reform conversation to the table. Last year, Jackson — the president of the Fresno State chapter of the NAACP — organized a 3,000-person strong protest after the death of George Floyd.
“That was a moment of tremendous pride for many of us in the city, seeing as how we saw a lot of the unrest around the country and that our community came together and had what I thought was just a model of peaceful demonstrations,” Baines said.
How Best to Handle Mental Health Calls
As part of the meeting, Baines created smaller working groups to concentrate on certain recommendations. He said the strategy worked well with last year’s 39-member reform commission. Baines talked about freeing police from being the first-responders on mental health calls.
“The work will be very tough. This is probably going to be a much heavier lift than we think,” Baines said.
Mayor Jerry Dyer said there are plans in place to reduce contact between police and homeless people.
Baines estimates it could take a year to implement.
The team will meet again in a month to update the progress made within the smaller working groups.