4/4/08 Air Traffic Trouble?
2/14/2008 Explosions Caught Local Pilots Off-Guard
A sergeant is losing his position in the Fresno Police Department after explosive video of fireworks set off by officers surfaced.
The video shows exactly what went on during what was supposed to be a training exercise. The illegal fireworks were set off in the direct path of outgoing flights at F.Y.I.
The training facility is adjacent to the airport. The incident prompted the police department to investigate officers who lit the fireworks or allowed them to be set off. The police chief cannot comment on personnel matters but Action News has learned one sergeant is being re-assigned.
This is not the Fourth of July; this is one night late last year. An airplane above the runway near the Fresno Airport and K-9 officers below are lighting fireworks in its path.
An officer in uniform runs this exercise. Other K-9 officers stand around and watch. It's training night, only this is clearly not training.
Gathered around a bonfire officers take in the pyrotechnic display. Oohing and awing at bottle rockets as they go off.
You can hear the dogs barking as the fireworks are set off. Only they are locked in the car away from all the action. After a series of fireworks are ignited, the sergeant on duty makes a fake radio call pretending to be his supervisor inquiring about the fireworks.
Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer watched the video and found nothing funny about it saying, "In this instance, based on our investigation, we've been able to show there was inappropriate conduct. There was in fact horseplay that occurred that has brought discredit and negative light to the Fresno Police Department and for that I'm sorry."
Depending on their involvement, the officers face different punishments, all of which the chief cannot discuss.
Action News has learned the first punishment has been handed down to Sergeant Carlos Frausto. He's being transferred out of the K-9 unit.
The police department changed its policy after our first story in February. No more aerial fireworks anywhere near the airport.
The displays weren't limited to nighttime, even during the day fireworks were set off.
Several weeks after this video was taken, three commercial pilots flying out of Fresno noticed explosions and radioed them in.
Pilot: "Somebody lit off some fireworks and we actually just went through the smoke."
Traffic controller: "OK thanks."
Pilot: "You're welcome."
The police chief said it won't happen again, and he hopes the fiery displays won't ruin the reputation of the K-9 unit as a whole. "I would hope that the citizens of our community would also look at the great work that has been done by our K-9 unit over the years. The lives that have been saved, the criminals that have been apprehended."
The police department got the fireworks from the fire department to be used for legitimate training purposes.