Fresno City Council Approves Police Auditor Position

March 24, 2009 7:34:31 PM PDT
The Fresno City Council has just approved Mayor Ashley Swearengin's proposal to hire an independent auditor to review the actions of the Fresno Police Department.Input StoryAfter nearly a decade of debate and controversy the Fresno City Council said "yes" to hiring an independent police auditor. But only after the position was rebranded with a new name. Police Chief Jerry Dyer said, "We do not want this office to be seen as negative. The term auditor sometimes brings a negative connotation with certain people whereas the Office of Independent Review perhaps does not sound as negative."

The Council's blessing to create the new job is bittersweet for Chief Dyer because the 1,000 members of Fresno Police Officer's Association opposed it. He said, "I never feel good when I stand on the opposite side of an issue with members of my Fresno Police Officers Association."

FPOA President Jacky Parks said, "This proposal is as much about politics as it is about merit. This proposal is far from ready to approve today." Parks and other members believe police already have enough oversight. They say the $300,000 dollars for the reviewer and 2 staff members would be better spent on preventing officer furloughs and layoffs.

Council Members Henry T. Perea and Mike Dages voted against the measure because he or she would report to the City Manager and not the City Council. Dages said, "No offense City Manager but I just feel it's still not independent if you go through the City Manager."

Mayor Swearengin believes she succeeded doing what other mayors couldn't in the last 10 years because her plan addressed objections that council members used to block it. And she added a built in window in case things don't work out. Swearengin said, "Every 6 months we'll have a public review and report to the council how it's going so far. The council could choose to act at any time to defund the position or eliminate the office."

Former Mayor Alan Autry tried to get council to approve an independent auditor several times during his 8 years in office but was unsuccessful. Action News couldn't reach Autry for a comment on Tuesday. Mayor Swearengin says after developing a job description she and City Manager Andy Souza will start recruiting and hope to hire someone in 3 or 4 months.

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