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What's Next as Fresno Looks for 3rd Police Chief in 5 Years?
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By David Taub, Senior Reporter
Published 4 weeks ago on
June 28, 2024

Fresno is engaging in another police chief search. Interim Chief Mindy Casto (center) and Deputy Chief Mark Salazar (right) are two of the internal candidates being floated. (GV Wire Composite)

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For the third time in five years, Fresno is searching for a police chief.

Andie Sodegren Portrait

“The climate for searches varies depending on the policing environment and local pressures in any given community.” — Andie Sodegren, senior project coordinator, International Association of Chiefs of Police

Paco Balderrama, chief since January 2021, resigned on June 25 after an affair with the wife of an officer under his command. That officer, Jordan Wamhoff, is also an elected member of the Madera County Board of Supervisors.

Balderrama’s official last day is July 25. He will be used only as a consultant until then won’t work from police headquarters.

The city named Deputy Chief Mindy Casto as interim police chief. She said she has yet to decide if she wants to apply for the permanent job.

Mayor Jerry Dyer and City Manager Georgeanne White are formulating how to move forward. Dyer said the search will be national.

“(White) and I are meeting with our personnel director next week to discuss the process. The only thing certain at this point is that we will be utilizing a search firm to do a national search for police chief. The process will be decided later,” Dyer told GV Wire.

What level the public will be involved has yet to be determined, Dyer said.

“Those discussions have not occurred yet. Please remember, the resignation occurred (Tuesday),” Dyer said.

Dyer expects the search to last up to five months.

“Definitely, the Fresno Police Officers Association will be involved. They are a key player in that. We’ll look at what community involvement we may need to have in terms of a panel. But we’ll put together a process similar to the one we had in the past. And, hopefully we get a similar outcome,” Dyer told CBS 47.

The city engaged in a search in 2019 to replace the retiring Dyer. He served 18 years as chief, and 40 in the Fresno Police Department, before starting his political career. He won his first term as mayor in 2020, and won re-election this past March.

Search Firm Advice

The International Association of Chiefs of Police advocate for chiefs and improved policing practices. The group also consults on police chief searches.

GV Wire asked IACP about the climate for police chief searches. Andie Sodegren, IACP senior project coordinator, said that a chief’s tenure lasts shorter than many other equivalent positions in government.

“We have some very strong candidates within the city. So folks like Mark Salazar and others who’ve been here for decades and have been the stewards and (have shown) the evidence of steady leadership and a calming voice could fill that role.” — Councilmember Miguel Arias

“That trend continues and has been exacerbated not only by retirements, but by events within the profession over the past several years. The climate for searches varies depending on the policing environment and local pressures in any given community,” Sodegren said.

Several factors are in play to recruit quality candidates, Sodegren said.

“Traditional factors include salary and benefits packages. Important factors also include professional development opportunity, the freedom to make a difference as the police chief, and a supportive culture from both the community and city leadership,” Sodegren said.

Sodegren said it is important for a city to know what it is looking for.

“Additionally, what constitutes a strong candidate is going to depend on the needs of the community and the department. Understanding those needs and what the chief’s role is in meeting those needs, and being clear about it in the recruitment phase can aid communities in attracting strong candidates who have the technical skills, the experience, and the qualities they are looking for,” Sodegren said.

The 2019 and 2020 Searches

Teri Black and Company consulted in the 2019 search that did not find a permanent chief. The city promoted Andy Hall, deputy chief at the time, knowing he was nearing retirement and would be a short-termer.

A second search in 2020 found Balderrama, a deputy chief in Oklahoma City. Although under the direction of then-Mayor Lee Brand, Dyer — by then mayor-elect — participated in the selection.

In his CBS 47 interview, Dyer said he expects the 2024 search to be easier than 2020.

“We we were in the midst of COVID. We were dealing with the George Floyd incident. There weren’t a lot of people that wanted to leave their current employment to go to another agency. But now that much of that’s behind us, and I do believe we’re going to get a great deal of interest,” Dyer said.

Councilmembers Support Salazar

Several Fresno City Councilmembers weighed in on what is next for the chief search.

Photo of Mike Karbassi

Given this very sensitive time for the department, there are advantages to having someone who is internal and understands this community and has the trust of the rank and file.” — Fresno City Councilmember Mike Karbassi

“We have some very strong candidates within the city. So folks like Mark Salazar and others who’ve been here for decades and have been the stewards and (have shown) the evidence of steady leadership and a calming voice could fill that role,” Councilmember Miguel Arias said on GV Wire’s “Unfiltered” on Tuesday, June 25.

In the 2019 and 2020 searches, Deputy Chief Salazar applied for the job but was not chosen. He also ran for Fresno County Sheriff in 2022, losing to John Zanoni.

Arias and Councilmember Mike Karbassi served on the 2020 hiring panel. Both recommended Salazar, but the job ultimately went to Balderrama.

Councilmember Luis Chavez recognized Salazar as a strong candidate.

“I think he brings a strong resume to the table. Given his work he’s done in disadvantaged communities … that felt that the police department was not there to help,” Chavez said on “Unfiltered.”

Karbassi, who advocated for a national search for the ongoing recruitment of the Fresno Unified School District superintendent, said hiring from within may be the proper route.

“Given this very sensitive time for the department, there are advantages to having someone who is internal and understands this community and has the trust of the rank and file,” Karbassi said on “Unfiltered.”

Arias Says Mayor Should Accept Widespread Input

Arias wants Dyer to consider others’ opinions.

“I hope that the mayor takes it upon himself to include the community and the council in the national search of the next chief,” Arias said.

Councilmember Garry Bredefeld supports a nationwide search, but said internal hires have worked in the past, like Dyer himself in 2001.

“We want the absolute best person to lead this already outstanding police department. However, we also have excellent candidates within the police department and their background and experience working in the city of Fresno should place them at the top of the list. There are several we all know who are already phenomenal leaders in the department,” Bredefeld said.

Salazar did not respond to GV Wire on whether he would apply this time.

 

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David Taub,
Senior Reporter
Curiosity drives David Taub. The award-winning journalist might be shy, but feels mighty with a recorder in his hand. He doesn't see it his job to "hold public officials accountable," but does see it to provide readers (and voters) the information needed to make intelligent choices. Taub has been honored with several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. He's just happy to have his stories read. Joining GV Wire in 2016, Taub covers politics, government and elections, mainly in the Fresno/Clovis area. He also writes columns about local eateries (Appetite for Fresno), pro wrestling (Off the Bottom Rope), and media (Media Man). Prior to joining the online news source, Taub worked as a radio producer for KMJ and PowerTalk 96.7 in Fresno. He also worked as an assignment editor for KCOY-TV in Santa Maria, California, and KSEE-TV in Fresno. He has also worked behind the scenes for several sports broadcasts, including the NCAA basketball tournament, and the Super Bowl. When not spending time with his family, Taub loves to officially score Fresno Grizzlies games. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Taub is a die-hard Giants and 49ers fan. He graduated from the University of Michigan with dual degrees in communications and political science. Go Blue! You can contact David at 559-492-4037 or at Send an Email

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