ACLU Demands Changes within Fresno PD

February 13, 2009 6:01:48 PM PST
The ACLU is calling for big changes at the Fresno Police Department after two officers were videotaped hitting a homeless man while making an arrest on Monday.Civil rights groups are asking for the police department to make the organization more accountable to the citizens they represent. They asked for a handful of requests to restore confidence.

Close to two dozen people want changes at the police department and they believe Monday's incident, where a homeless man was hit repeatedly by police, was not an isolated event.

ACLU Representative Bill Simon said, "Monday is just one incident. It happens every day. More in some areas of the city than others but it happens every day."

Community activists want Fresno Police to be watched more closely by federal agencies and an independent police auditor. Reverend Floyd Harris hopes the recent actions by officers highlight the immediate need for a better system of checks and balances.

Rev. Floyd Harris said, "Why is it that this local government cannot see that we need another oversight which is a police auditor. Because I'm tired of my tax dollars being wasted on lawsuits."

ACLU leaders highlighted five areas they want to see Fresno Police improve to in turn boost community confidence. They include an immediate investigation by the department of justice. Establishing an independent police auditor, hosting community forums to give citizens an outlet, culture and sensitivity training for officers and a community based policing program. Police Chief Jerry Dyer says he's working on the requests and has already been hosting community forums. The chief adds it is his belief Monday's incident is uncommon if it weren't he thinks videos would be popping up all the time.

"When you combine that with the fact there are thousands of people in this community with cell phones that have video capability, to know that this is one of just a handful of incidents tell you that most of our officers are doing their job in the right way," said Chief Dyer.

Those who attended the press conference agree many officers are doing the right thing, but they want a system in place, when officers do not that holds them responsible and the police department.

According to these civil rights groups, once these five criteria are met, it will protect the community better and those officers dedicated to serving the public.

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