Fresnans Demand Independent Police Auditor

February 24, 2009 11:40:12 PM PST
A passionate group of Fresno residents pleaded with the mayor to hire an independent auditor tonight during a community forum. The public outcry was amplified after a video tape surfaced showing the violent arrest of a homeless man. At one point, one of the officers was seen punching him in the face. Now residents say there needs to be more transparency at the police department."The longer you wait on this I.P.A. the closer this city gets to when it explodes," said Juan Evitia.

Dozens of Fresno residents shared story after story---claiming tales of police brutality, excessive force and the need, now, for an independent police auditor or I.P.A.

"The city ... we need help. Give us help," begged Pastor Jerry Jones.

Juan Evitia said the recent graphic video of 2 Fresno police officers hitting a homeless man during an arrest is proof enough. "It's sad that it took a white man getting beat in North Fresno for this issue to bring all of you here!" he said before a cheering crowd.

Mayor Ashley Swearengin invited the community to fill the city council chambers, and fill it they did.

"I appreciate the passion on both sides of this issue and I'm not asking you to not feel strongly about your views," said the Mayor.

This forum is part of the mayor's promise to the community to consider an auditor. Most residents told her they want more transparency.

"This person maybe it's two people needs to be able to report to a body in addition to the mayor," said one resident.

Former councilmember Brian Calhoun was a stand out in Tuesday nights packed crowd. "I did not support it then as a councilmember. I do not support it today," he said.

Calhoun voted down a police auditor five times while on council. But his views appear to be in the minority. An Exclusive Action News Poll onducted by SurveyUSA last week found 84%, support an I.P.A. But Calhoun said 'Fresnans don't have all the facts.' "Any time there's any police questioning it gets fairly investigated and it gets followed through," he said.

Mayor Swearengin said she'll use the input from both side to draft her plan for an I.P.A. before presenting it to the city council.

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