FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A week after former police chief Jerry Dyer was sworn in as mayor -- the City of Fresno welcomed Paco Balderrama as its new police chief Monday.
"I see an opportunity here, I see a challenge here," Balderrama said. "I see for great things to happen. I believe in five to 10 years, Fresno is going to be a much different place and if I can play a small role in it, that's a life and a career well lived."
City leaders say Balderrama -- who becomes the department's first Latino Police Chief -- was the clear top candidate for the job.
The 44-year-old comes to Fresno by way of Oklahoma City, where he served as Deputy Chief.
Mayor Dyer believes Balderrama has what it takes to lead the force during these challenging times
"I know what a great police chief looks like, and I know the commitment it takes in order to be a great police chief," Dyer said. "Chief Balderrama has that commitment and he has what it takes to be a great police chief."
Balderrama takes over a department that has seen its share of violent crime, including a record number of shootings in 2020 and already five homicides to begin the new year.
The new chief says he has two main priorities he'd like to establish early on: community safety and community trust
"To the citizens of Fresno, the residents of Fresno, I can say that things are going to change," Balderrama said. "We're going to work very hard to make this city a safer place to live."
Joined by his wife and twin brother at Monday's ceremony -- Balderrama spoke about the similarities Fresno and Oklahoma City share while admitting he was drawn to Fresno partly because of its diverse population
"Not just a big Hispanic population, but a big Hmong population, a big Asian population," he said. "This a diverse city, and I believe Fresno kind of represents what the U.S. is going to look like in 20 to 30 years. So I see that as a plus."
Balderrama hits the ground running -- he says plans to meet with as much of his staff this week while he squeezes in meetings with federal officials to come up with strategies to slow violence across the city.