Fresno police reform: We explain the new policies being adopted by the department

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Nearly one year after a commission formed to bring police reform to the Fresno Police Department shared its recommendations, Police Chief Paco Balderrama announced Friday that a handful of those policies are being implemented among his officers.

In September, the department updated its policy guide with nine of the 73 recommendations put forward.

On Friday, Chief Balderrama announced an additional seven policies being added.

The modifications were made to several areas of the Fresno Police Department's policies: reporting discrimination, recruitment, officers' use of force, internal investigations, and de-escalation methods.

POLICE POLICY CHANGES



So which recommendations are being implemented, and what do they mean for the police department? We've broken it down for you:

(Below you'll find the commission recommendations and the date the department announced their implementation. As the department adopts new policies, this list will be updated.)

REPORTING DISCRIMINATION

  • Commission Recommendation: (Added Dec. 3, 2021) "The department should improve its early intervention system (EAS) patterns for behavior by individual officers. Both PERF and the President's Take Force on 21st Century Policing recommend that law enforcement agencies adopt policies prohibiting profiling and discrimination based on race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, age, gender, gender identity/expression, sexual orientation, immigration status, etc. and discipline officers who violate such policies."


  • The department says it will update two of its systems that track discrimination allegations against its officers. That includes a program called Benchmark. The police chief says the Internal Affairs Bureau Commander can set alerts within the system when officers are accused of profiling or discrimination. They expect the software to be added to the department in 2022.

    Fresno police have also updated their policy on racial or bias-based profiling, stating "all members shall interact with the public in a professional, impartial, fair, respectful and non-discriminatory manner."

  • Commission Recommendation: (Added Dec. 3, 2021) "The City should clarify and provide for a robust process by which members of the public can make complaints of discrimination against police officers."


  • Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderrama says the department will conduct checks on the effectiveness of its complaint process, including an audit. The audit is designed to ensure that complaints are received at all levels and followed through. It will also check the timeliness of processing and reviewing complaints.

    This new audit was implemented for the department in November 2021, officials said.

  • Commission Recommendation: (Added Dec. 3, 2021) "The city's workplace discrimination policy should be amended to provide victims of discrimination the same protections that witnesses are afforded."


  • The department says it will update its policy to provide any victim of discrimination the same protections that would be given to witnesses under the law.

    Officials say this policy went into effect starting in November 2021.

    RECRUITMENT UPDATES

  • Commission Recommendation: (Added Dec. 3, 2021) "If there are conditions or requirements at the FPD that tend to deter female applications or discriminate against females, they should be remedied."


  • The department says its recruiting unit has been increasing its efforts to "reach a wider demographic of applicants," including women. The police chief says the unit has been increasing its online outreach and attending community events to try to recruit more female officers.

    The department says it "recognizes the importance of female representation."

  • Commission Recommendation: (Added Dec. 3, 2021) "The city should continue to work with California State University, Fresno, Fresno City College and other local educational institutions to expand the appeal of policing with the department as a career path."


  • The department says it has been working with local schools to increase outreach. Officials say the department added a criminology workshop at Fresno State this year and attended job fairs at Fresno City College.

    They plan to continue reaching out to schools to conduct presentations in classrooms on the department's hiring process. The department says it's also working to create a career program with Fresno Unified.

    FRESNO POLICE DEPARTMENT POLICIES

  • Commission Recommendation: (Added Dec. 3, 2021) "The City of Fresno should transfer the following functions and associated budgets to other city departments whose core missions are better aligned with the intended functions and outcomes: Fresno Area Express (FAX) Unit, Graffiti Unit, Violence Intervention and Community Services, Homeless Task Force and Recycling Task Force."


  • The department says it disbanded the five units mentioned in the above recommendation in September 2021, with the officers on those units going to regular patrol.

    Chief Balderrama says the Mayor's office has picked up the Violence Intervention and Community Services unit as part of Mayor Jerry Dyer's gang prevention initiative.

  • Commission Recommendation: (Added Dec. 3, 2021) "The city should disband the homeless task force and reallocate resources to social services and community-based organizations that provide services to the city's homeless population."


  • The department says it will no longer run its homeless task force, rather assist the city's newly created Homeless Assistance Response Team (HART) with any services they request.

    HART is a team made up of outreach services, sanitation crews, code-enforcement and mental health professionals.

  • Commission Recommendation: (Added Sep. 3, 2021) "All corrective action should be documented in an employee's personnel file."


  • The department's previous policy states that corrective action could be documented and placed in an officer's personnel file at the discretion of their supervisor. Now, supervisors will need to document instances where an officer was reprimanded. However, the policy states that the "decision to document corrective actions shall be based upon that fact that an issue has previously been addressed or is of a level of seriousness that should be recorded for future reference."

    The new policy also states that a reoccurrence of the issue will need to be investigated by supervisors.

  • Commission Recommendation: (Added Sep. 3, 2021) "(Internal) investigations should be completed within six months unless the incident is of complex or difficult nature that would require additional time to be investigated."


  • When it comes to internal affairs investigations, the Fresno Police Department now says its goal is to complete investigations in less than 60 days since they were assigned.

    Incidents that are "complex or difficult in nature" are assigned to the Internal Affairs Bureau, which now aims to complete the investigation within 90 days since they received it.

    USE OF FORCE

  • Commission Recommendation: (Added Sep. 3, 2021) "The Use of Force policy purpose should be to prevent unnecessary force, ensure accountability and transparency and ensure the community's trust and confidence. It shall be the utmost priority and mission to protect and serve all individuals fo Fresno. It is to respect the inherent life, liberty, dignity and worth of all individuals by preserving human life, minimizing physical harm and reliance on the use of force and conducting its duties without prejudice."

  • One of the recommendations was a revised introduction to the Fresno Police Department's use of force policy. Above you'll see the Commission's suggestion, and below is the new preamble for the department's policy, which includes ensuring "ensure accountability and transparency."

    "A primary purpose of this policy is to prevent the use of unnecessary force as defined by the law, ensure accountability and transparency, and to enhance the community's trust and confidence in our officers' ability to protect and serve."

  • Commission Recommendation: (Added Sep. 3, 2021) "Law enforcement officers shall only use physical force when no other viable option is available. To further the aim of minimal reliance on force, all law enforcement officers must, at all times, carry on their person at least one less-lethal weapon."


  • The department said that policies currently in place require that officers only use physical force when necessary, "given the facts and totality of the circumstances known or perceived by the officer at the time." Current policy also states that officers can use a level of force they "reasonably believe is proportional to the seriousness of the suspected offense."

    Updates were made to the use of force policy requiring officers to carry less-lethal weapons with them.

  • Commission Recommendation: (Added Sep. 3, 2021) "The Use of Force policy should state that deadly force may be used only for the protection of human life."


  • The department has updated its "Deadly Force Applications" section of its Use of Force policy to now say officers may use "deadly force only when necessary, in defense of human life, in determining whether deadly force is necessary."

    The policy states that officers will need to evaluate the situations they're in to determine when the use of force is necessary and will not be required to use other methods "if reasonably safe and feasible."

  • Commission Recommendation: (Added Sep. 3, 2021) "The level of resistance faced by an officer and the extent to which it is treated should be weighed in determining the application of the use of force."


  • Fresno police's use of force policy now clarifies the levels of resistance to help officers determine whether they should be using the use of force.

    The policy says officers can consider the use of force when resistance looks like, "the individual is actively resisting or attempting to evade arrest or escape" and if "the individual is compliant, passively resistant, actively resistant, assaultive/combative, or the resistance poses a risk of serious bodily injury or is life-threatening."

  • Commission Recommendation: (Added Sep. 3, 2021) "An officer's use of deadly force will be assessed in light of the officer's tactical conduct and decisions leading up to the use of force. Where possible, a verbal warning or verbal warning shall be given before the use of deadly force."


  • Fresno police's use of force policy was updated to indicate that the department will review the conduct leading up to an officer's use of deadly force.

  • Commission Recommendation: (Added Sep. 3, 2021) "The existing use of force section regarding moving vehicles does not prohibit officers from reaching into moving vehicles. The Commission recommends that the provision be revised to include this prohibition."

  • The updated use of force policy states that Fresno police officers are now prohibited from reaching into moving vehicles except for when there are "extenuating circumstances."

    DE-ESCALATION

  • Commission Recommendation: (Added Sep. 3, 2021) "...require the use of de-escalation techniques as specified in SB 230. De-escalation is not a required step in the general use of force policy. The term de-escalation is only referenced. The department needs both a stronger commitment to de-escalation and more explicit rules effectuating that goal. The Commission believes that a more concrete commitment to de-escalation is imperative. It is not enough for police officers to de-escalate in mental health crises and demonstrations. It needs to be a central tenet in any use of force circumstance."


  • Fresno police added a new section related to de-escalation policies and practices. The department said it would provide de-escalation options, examples, and steps for officers to learn and practice. It also will require periodic training for officers to showcase their knowledge of de-escalation tactics.

    Chief Balderrama said that de-escalation training was a high priority to implement among the department.

    Balderrama said he expected at least another seven of the Commission's recommendations to be implemented over the next month.

    Copyright © 2022 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.