Contracting Fresno Police for Security

August 26, 2008 7:25:48 PM PDT
Fresno police are modifying a controversial program to contract their services to businesses following an action news investigation. Some bar and nightclub owners are complaining they have been harassed and pressured into paying for on-duty officers.Nightclub owners have complained to action news that they felt they had to sign a contract to hire police officers for security at overtime wages. One club owner believes he was raided for code enforcement violations because he wouldn't go along. Police deny the allegation, but because of the perception of problems, the city's police chief is changing the program.

After the owner of Club M, in the Tower District complained he'd been cited for alleged code enforcement violations because he refused to hire contract police officers, City Council Member Jerry Duncan became concerned. He prepared an ordinance to get the cops out of bars. But Duncan has withdrawn the measure, after Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer agreed to make changes in the contract policing program.

Duncan: "And I think those changes will solve the problem allow our police officers to provide a service they need to provide, but also make sure there's a level of separation between them and the restaurant owners so that they'll be no innuendo or suggestion of impropriety."

The details are still being worked out but Duncan says the plan is to make sure police officers aren't the ones offering the service to bar and nightclub owners.

Duncan:"It will basically be that the police officers won't be in direct contact with the restaurant owners as they make the decision whether or not to hire contract law. It will be a different area."

Chief Jerry Dyer says the goal is to keep the contract policing program in place, without intimidating business owners.

Jerry Dyer, Fresno Police Chief: "What we're trying to do is make sure that businesses still have the ability to contract services without there ever being a perception or a feeling that we're mandating, or forcing that upon them."

Under current regulations police can require bars, or clubs with "Dance permits" to have a security plan in place. Giving them the option of hiring private security or police officers. The goal is to try and make it clear bar owners have an option.

Jerry Dyer: "There may be other business owners that feel there was pressure to hire officers but that's not our intent. It really is not."

Duncan says the changes in the policy will be brought to the city council within a couple of weeks.

The owner of Club M and his attorney are set to appear at a hearing Wednesday to determine if the city acted appropriately in revoking the clubs dance permit over alleged building code violations.

Attorney Ron Sawl maintains the city's use of contract police services is illegal, and hopes to get the city council to consider the issue.

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