Police shootings and alleged misconduct would get more scrutiny under plan introduced by Fresno mayor

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Mayor Lee Brand presented his plan for a Citizens Advisory Board and a full time Police Auditor to the council. He said the goal is increasing public confidence in the department.

"This is a major step forward for the community; to bring out a Citizens Public Safety Advisory Board, to make it safer for its members as well as the police department."

Police Chief Jerry Dyer, District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp, and even the President of the Fresno Police union endorsed the plans.

Members of the group Faith in Fresno also said it was a big step in the right direction, but have some issues.

"The point of the board is to have transparency, build trust between law enforcement, and a part of that is exposing some of this information to the public and I don't see where that's done. We see things like the meetings are closed to the public," said Taymah Jahsi, Faith in Fresno.

Under the proposal a nine member Citizen Public Safety Advisory Board would be appointed by the mayor to monitor department policies. But, their meetings would be closed to the public and exempt from the state's open meetings law.

Board members would have to sign confidentiality agreements and would also receive training to get a police officer's point of view. Also five members of law enforcement, including the DA's Office and Police Union would sit with the Citizens Advisory Board as non-voting members to advise the citizens.

Brand said because of the sensitive nature some confidentiality is needed, but the board will be able to go to the public through the City Council.

"Four times a year they are going to report to the council, so that will be a public session."

A key part of the Mayors plan is hiring a full time Police Auditor, who lives in the community, unlike the part time auditor now in place. And preference will be given to an auditor with front line law enforcement training.

A majority of the council liked the plan, but Member Garry Bredefeld argued it was not needed.

"There's no focus on the criminals, that's what we ought to have, a police safety board on criminals, not on the police."

Bredefeld was joined by Council Member Steve Brandau in voting against the Mayors plan, but it won council approval on a five to two vote.

Under the plan, neither the Police Auditor nor the Citizens Advisory Board would have investigative powers, they would only report on what they were allowed to observe.

The mayor would like to have the auditor hired and the panel in place by June.
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