Mayor stands by call for a Police Auditor

FRESNO, Calif.

Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin believes it's time for another level of scrutiny.

"Our officers sometime have to use force and given the serious responsibility they have it seems to me that outside independent investigations are needed to uphold the public's confidence in what our department is doing."

The Mayor budgeted $182 thousand for a two person office. But some city council member Sal Quintero is among those who are skeptical the city can afford it.

"Yes it's in the budget we also have a lot of other priorities we have to look at and continuing services for our constituents. And we are going to have to take a real hard look at it, and as it is, our budget isn't balanced and we have to take a real hard look at it."

It's really a hard sell with the Fresno Police Officers Association. Police union head Jacky Parks says it's tough to ask his members to accept cuts in their benefits when the Mayor wants to spend money on a police auditor.

"I look at my members and know they are frustrated as heck when they see in the city budget 182 thousand two hundred dollars for an office of independent review. Is it a need, or is it a want, is it a political promise?"

The Mayor did promise the people of Fresno the office would be restored, and she believes the small cost is well worth it.

"We spend about $180 thousand this next year on the Office of Independent Review, out of a $150 million budget, so it's a very modest amount but it does establish that independent outside auditor who has law enforcement expertise and can really evaluate whether our internal affairs unit is operating in the way that it's supposed to operate."

As part of the more than $1 million settlement reached early this year in the 2009 police shooting death of Steven Vargas, the Fresno Police Department pledged to reform some of its policies and procedures. But Swearengin says the auditor provides a needed, extra level of scrutiny.

Since the Office of Independent Review is already in the city budget it would take five votes on the seven member city council to de-fund the position.

The man shot and killed by a police officer in Tuesday's police shooting is identified as Pedro Alanis. Police say he was shot while trying to evade officers in a stolen vehicle.

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