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Fresno police chief placed on paid leave amid investigation

Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderrama during a press conference in 2022.
Esther Quintanilla
Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderrama during a press conference in 2022.

FRESNO, Calif. – Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderrama was placed on paid administrative leave Wednesday, nearly one week since the city revealed it was investigating him for an inappropriate off-duty relationship, multiple news reports say.

On Wednesday, hours before being placed on leave he told reporters he could not provide details about the investigation and had vowed to remain police chief while the investigation played out.

“This is the most difficult time in my life, and in my family’s life,” Balderrama said as he was caught exiting city council chambers in downtown Fresno. The moment was captured in a video by GV Wire reporter David Taub.

Balderrama was visibly emotional, and at one point pulled out a rosary he said an officer gave him as a show of support. He asked for forgiveness for his actions, and said he isn’t perfect.

The same day, the Fresno Police Officers’ Association scheduled an emergency meeting to discuss the matter. The association is the union that represents Fresno police officers. Balderrama is reportedly not covered by the union, and is an at-will employee by the city, according to reports.

On Monday evening, in a one-page letter to members of the police department, Balderrama said he did not meet standards he set for himself "as a man of faith, a husband or a father."

"It is so very true that there are two sides to every story, but I do not intend to justify or defend myself regardless of any unknown circumstances," Balderrama wrote.

Balderrama reportedly told his supervisors in the city in February that an allegation would be made against him. Officials are revealing few details about the nature of Balderram’s off-duty relationship, but news outlets havereported he allegedly engaged in an affair that may have potentially influenced personnel decisions at the police department.

The city hired an outside firm to investigate, and the city attorney will review the findings. According to reports, Fresno Police Deputy Chief Mindy Casto will take over temporary control of the police department.

Esther Quintanilla reports on communities across Central California, covering a variety of stories surrounding the rich cultures in the Valley, farmworker issues, healthcare, and much more. She previously reported through the Central Valley News Collaborative, a partnership between the Fresno Bee, Vida en el Valle, KVPR and Radio Bilingüe.
Cresencio Rodriguez-Delgado is KVPR's News Director. Prior to joining the station's news department in 2022, he was a reporter for PBS NewsHour and The Fresno Bee.