Support for Fresno Police Auditor Grows

5/9/2008 Fresno, CA The effort to get an independent auditor to look at complaints against the Fresno Police Department has gone nowhere for years. The mayor, and even the police chief have indicated support, but a majority of the city council has always shot it down.

Now, with an election year, supporters say it may be time.

They held a meeting in Fresno Thursday night.

Some came to complain. One woman believed her son was the victim of excessive force... One man was upset police raided his house because they had the wrong address.

Police weren't available to comment on the allegations. But those who want an independent police auditor say it would help if somebody outside the police department would listen to complaints like this. That's Barbara Attard's job in San Jose. Where she serves as the police auditor. She spoke at the Fresno event and says "You know police misconduct's always a big issue and if there is an auditor or some other civilian oversight people feel more at ease that those investigations are being looked at fairly, and thoroughly."

Attard believes police need to be especially sensitive when an officer kills someone. Last month the shooting of Roosevelt High student Jesse Carrizales, by a Fresno Police officer renewed calls for an auditor. The teen's family was upset nobody told them what happened until hours later.

Attard police need to know how to communicate after a police shooting. She says, "Assign someone to talk to the family. Explain to them what the steps are, why they are not able to be involved more. And I think it's especially important they not make a pronouncement whether it was within policy or not."

She says a department's rush to say a police shooting was justified, without an outside investigation can seem suspicious. As police auditor for the city of San Jose. Attard looks into complaints and presents her findings to the city council.

But in Fresno, the city council has been an obstacle to creating an auditor.

Ellie Bluestein of the Central California Criminal Justice Committee hopes that's about to change, saying, and "We hope to get people fired up to go to their city council members and ask for a police auditor. This is an election year and all of the city council members who voted against the auditor are now up for election in one area or another."

Those who want the city of Fresno to hire an auditor say they will confront city council and mayoral candidates on the issue. Fresno is the largest city in California with some form of independent police auditor.

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