Fresno Chief Says He’s Adopted Some Police Reform Recommendations. Here They Are

Fresno police have implemented nine new policies recommended by the Commission on Police Reform, including some related to use-of-force, according to an update Friday from Chief Paco Balderrama.

The commission recommenced 73 changes to how the Fresno Police Department operates, including deadly use of force, response to nonviolent calls for service, hiring and recruitment, contracting with school districts and a slew of other topics.

The department began a process in April to put 24 of those changes into place.

Balderrama said some of the recommendations will take longer to implement than others, adding only 31 of the total number of recommendations fall under his purview. The others require the City Council to add funding, a change in case law or other decisions he does not directly control.

“A lot of them are great ideas I fully support and make a lot of sense,” he said.

Several of the policies now in place required changes to the police handbook and some will require training, Balderrama said.

The Fresno Police Officers Union signed off on the new policies, according to Balderrama. Union President Brandon Wiemiller was not immediately available for comment.

Examples of changes to the handbook include wording that using force is only necessary when all other viable options have been exhausted, and that deadly force shall only be used to protect human life.

Police have also added “de-escalation” tactics to their policy. Balderrama said “de-escalation” — which are tactics to reduce the volatility of an encounter and avoid use-of-force — has been used by the department for some time, but it was never officially added to the policy until now.

Another new policy puts a 90-day target deadline on reviews from the Internal Affairs Bureau and 60 days for investigations outside of that bureau, which are reviews for potential disciplinary action of officers. The recommendation asked for a six month limit.

Some recommendations will not be implemented because Balderrama says he does not support them. The only example he provided on Friday was a recommendation to end any contracts with local school districts for officers on campus, which the department calls school resource officers.

“I don’t feel (the recommendation) benefits the safety of our community or our kids,” he said.

The issue of officers on school campuses has been controversial. The Fresno Unified School District took a survey some leaders said showed support for officers, but others pointed to bias in which students and staffers were asked to answer the questions.

The district in the meantime has kept its contracts with the police department.

Balderrama said a list of the other recommendations he does not support was not available. He said he is still working with the implementation team for all of the recommendations and plans to periodically update the public about the adoptions of new policies.

CRITICISM OF THE PROCESS

Sandra Celedon, vice chair of the Commission for Police Reform who also serves on the Implementation Team, has been critical of the process.

While she said she is happy to hear about some recommendations coming to fruition, she said the process lacks transparency. The implementation committee met once in the spring, she said.

“There hasn’t been a meeting since,” she said. “It’s a concern that the work has gone dark or has gone behind the scenes.”

She said it wasn’t until she spoke to the Bee on Friday that she learned some of the recommendations had been implemented.

She said the Commission on Police Reform and implementing the recommendations was supposed to be a public process in which each one was studied and considered publicly. The chief should not be unilaterally crossing out some of the recommendations, because “it’s not a menu,” Celedon said.

“He doesn’t get to arbitrarily make that decision on his own,” she said. “That was the point of the implementation team.”

WHAT HAS BEEN ADOPTED?

These are the newest recommendations that have been implemented, according to Balderrama:

  • Recommendation #11: The preamble to the use-of-force policy should state that its purpose is to prevent unnecessary force, ensure accountability and transparency, and ensure the community’s trust and confidence in the Fresno Police Department’s ability to protect and serve. It shall be the utmost priority and mission of the FPD to protect and serve all individuals of Fresno and to respect the inherent life, liberty, dignity, and worth of all individuals by preserving human life, minimizing physical harm and reliance on use of force, and conducting its duties without prejudice. The FPD Policy Manual, in particular 300 Use of Force, and other force provisions and related training, should be updated to reflect these concepts.
  • Recommendation #12: Law enforcement officers of the FPD shall only use physical force when no other viable option is available. In all cases where force is used, only the minimum degree of force which is necessary shall be employed. The minimum degree of force is the lowest level of force within a range of what is objectively necessary or reasonable to effect an arrest or achieve a lawful objective. To further the aim of minimal reliance on force, all law enforcement officers must, at all times, carry on their person at least one less-lethal weapon.
  • Recommendation #13: The Use of Force Policy 300 should be modified to require the use of de-escalation techniques, as specified in SB 230.
  • Recommendation #14: The use of force policy should state that deadly force may be used only for the protection of human life.
  • Recommendation #15: The level of resistance faced by the officer, and the extent to which it is treated, should be weighed in determining the application of the use of force. With respect to the conduct of the subject, the use of force should also be based on whether the subject is: compliant; passively resistant; actively resistant; or assaultive, aggressive, or combative.
  • Recommendation #16: The FPD Police Policy Manual should be amended to provide that an officer’s use of deadly force will be assessed in light of the officer’s tactical conduct and decisions leading up to the use of force. Where possible, a verbal warning or verbal warnings shall be given before the use of deadly force.
  • Recommendation #17: The existing use of force section regarding moving vehicles, section 300.8.4, does not prohibit officers from reaching into moving vehicles. The commission recommends that the provision be revised to include this prohibition. Reaching into a moving vehicle invites a situation in which the officer’s life is endangered, and therefore, the use of force may be required.
  • Recommendation #20: All corrective action should be documented in an employee’s personnel file.
  • Recommendation #24: Investigations should be completed within six months unless the incident is of a complex or difficult nature that would require additional time to be investigated.

From www.fresnobee.com