Balderrama Responds to Activist’s Critical Tweets: ‘I’m the Chief’
Criticism from a Fresno nonprofit leader about how the city is implementing police reform was a topic at Thursday’s city council meeting.
Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderrama told the Fresno City Council that most of the reforms suggested by a post-George Floyd police commission have been implemented.
The 40-member commission formed in June 2020, after cities evaluated how police departments should operate after the in-custody death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The group spent months recommending 73 policies.
It was up to Balderrama and a separate Police Reform Implementation Team to either move forward or not with the recommendations.
During his Thursday presentation to the city council, Balderrama said 38 of the policies have been implemented by the committee or the city; 23 are either in the process or have been referred to the committee; and five are supported but outside the scope of what Fresno police can do.
Another seven policies, such as removing police from public schools, were outright declined.
Celedon: ‘City is Straight Up Lying’
Tweets from a noted police critic and a member of the reform committee came up during the City Hall conversation.
Sandra Celedon, president and CEO of the nonprofit Fresno Building Healthy Communities, served as vice-chair of the commission. She criticized the implementation of reforms in a series of tweets.
“For the record, I was (am?) on the @CityofFresno Police Reform Implementation Team and none of what the city is reporting was approved or even discussed by the team. The city is straight up lying,” Celedon wrote on Twitter.
Balderrama and City Manager Georgeanne White said they did not need approval from any committee to implement the policies.
Fresno City Councilman Garry Bredefeld mentioned the tweets during his questioning of Balderrama.
“I don’t think I need their approval or their permission to implement good policies in my police department. By the way, on a weekly basis, I implement new policies that are national best practices and recommendations. And I don’t ask anybody. That’s why I’m the chief of police,” Balderrama said.
Bredefeld recalled a Celedon tweet during the riots in the Twin Cities after George’s death. She advocated for rioters to burn down a police department building.
“That’s not helpful,” Balderrama said.
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Bredefeld also criticized another recent Celedon tweet about a March 4 incident where Fresno police shot and killed a suspect in the parking lot of a north Fresno Walmart. That incident is under review by the state Department of Justice.
“I think there are people who have agendas who served on that commission, who are serving … Why? I don’t know why these folks who really have an agenda against the police serve on this commission. We really ought to have the courage to say that we want objective people,” Bredefeld said.
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Celedon did not respond to a GV Wire request for comment.