Fresno Police Department Budget Hearings - Day 2
By Mike Rhodes
The Fresno Police Department (FPD) has proposed a $1.2 million video surveillance project in their 2007 budget, which is being considered by the City Council. On Wednesday (June 14, 2006) the FPD made their presentation, public comment was made, and council member Brian Calhoun moved to eliminate funding for the project. For more information about Day 1 of the FPD budget hearings, see http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2006/06/15/18280787.php .
On Thursday (June 15) criticism of the proposed video surveillance project continued by several council members who complained that their had not been sufficient community input on the proposal, there was no policy manual to regulate the use of the equipment, and that funding for the cameras would take away from other policing needs.
Council president Jerry Duncan said the proposed budget represents an 11% increase over the previous year but it does not add new officers to the police force, even though the city of Fresno is growing. Duncan said this represents a decrease in service and an increase in cost. None the less, Duncan proposed fully funding the video surveillance project, but only after a comprehensive policy manual was written. Duncan said the manual should be written with community input and approved by the city council before funding for the video surveillance project was given.
Council member Henry Perea was also concerned with aspects of the video surveillance proposal, and made a motion that only the $400,000 (1/3 of the requested amount) be approved for the project. The $400,000 would come from a Homeland Security grant. The additional $800,000, which would come from the General Fund, would not be approved under Perea’s proposal.
At the end of the hearing there were four proposals, addressing the video surveillance issue. The proposals which will be considered when the council meets on June 22 are:
1. The original proposal to fund the video surveillance project for the full $1.2 million, as requested by the FPD.
2. Council member Brian Calhoun’s proposal not to fund the video surveillance project at all.
3. The proposal, put forward by Jerry Duncan to fully fund the proposal, but only after a policy manual is approved by the City Council.
4. Henry Perea’s proposal to approve only the $400,000 that would come from the Department of Homeland Security. This is only for four cameras at locations chief Dyer refused to disclose.
A major concern that emerged from the Thursday evening hearing was the issue of morale in the FPD. Chief Dyer said they were losing officers to other cities. For example, several FPD officers have taken jobs in Clovis where the pay and benefits are higher. It was noted, by chief Dyer, that an officer in Fresno can work for 30 years and retire with 55% of his salary. In Clovis, the same officer, after 30 years would retire with 90% of his or her salary. Several council members were critical of Dyer’s budget because he was asking for money for what they believed to be unnecessary projects, while not addressing the issue of retaining officers.
Some of the proposed new projects Dyer is seeking funding for are:
1. A Gang Task Force, similar to a project based in San Jose.
2. A crew to paint over graffiti.
3. A project that would pay child support for parolees.
4. A police training village
5. The video surveillance project
6. A new firing range.
Funding for most of these proposals were challenged and will be discussed at the June 22 meeting when the City Council will attempt to reconcile the competing motions that were made and seconded at the budget hearings. They have until June 30th to finalize the budget.