Fresno is beefing up the police force

Fresno is getting ready to add more police officers to the force.
October 23, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Fresno is getting ready to add more police officers to the force.

Mayor Ashley Swearengin made the announcement Wednesday afternoon, with Police Chief Jerry Dyer and City Manager Bruce Rudd at her side.

"This is indeed positive news," she said. "We consider this a very positive step for our community."

The city will be hiring 15 sworn police officers, 30 cadets and four dispatchers. They will also be reassigning 11 police officers assigned to Fresno Yosemite International Airport and putting those officers back on the street. That transition will happen in the next few months. The airport will hire security personnel to be trained by the police officers.

"It's the equivalent of adding back 26 police officers in the police departments," Dyer said in reference to the 15 officers his department will be hiring and the 11 being reassigned from the airport.

The 15 officers are expected to be hired by Jan. 15th, 2014. The cadets will be hired in two phases. Fifteen will be hired by Nov. 15 and the other 15 will be hired no later than Jan. 4, 2014.

The cadets will handle crimes like thefts and burglaries.

"It will free up our officers and give them more the opportunity to be involved in the more pressing issues of the day," Dyer said.

The Fresno Police Department had more than 800 officers four years ago. But the numbers started to diminish as the City was forced to tighten its belt.

Dyer called Wednesday's announcement the start of a rebuilding process for the Fresno Police Department. Over the years, Dyer says his department was not able to respond to many lower level crimes. Those had to be reported over the phone or online, instead of an officer taking the report in person.

"I'd like to say to the citizens, those individuals that have been victimized, that have not been able to receive the level of service they should, that I'm sorry," Dyer said at the press conference. "We're sorry and that we promise to do better."

The mayor says the costs of the officers are already allocated in the 2014 budget that the city council passed in July.

In the past, Swearengin says the city has asked its departments not to fill positions that are left open in order to save money and stash it away in the general fund to fill any gaps caused by the economic downturn. Swearengin says that the economy has now stabilized and they are confident in the city's revenue streams from sales and property taxes.

"We're expecting stable revenue," she said, that's why they're telling departments to "go ahead and spend at the level you're approved."

The city council planned for 717, the department currently has 701 sworn officers, and they continue to lose more through attrition. If they don't start filling vacancies, the number of sworn officers could have fallen to 680 by June 30, 2014.

During the summer, The Mayor and Police Chief were pushing Measure G, which would have privatized residential garbage collection and in turn, they say it would have prevented cuts to police and fire.

The plan never passed. But the mayor says the situation changed.

"In late June, we learned from the county assessor that we could anticipate a couple million more in property tax this fiscal year, than had been previously been reported," she said. "So that helped absorb the loss of the revenue we had expected from measure G, so that just got us to even."

"Then with the further officer attrition happening much faster than had been planned? that gives us the flexibility to within the department's budget to begin to add up," she added.


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