Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer announced his run for mayor Wednesday as protestors rallied outside his press conference at the Manchester Center.
About a dozen protesters chanted “Dyer is a liar” and booed him as he spoke about combatting homelessness, bringing more high-paying jobs to Fresno, and uniting the city.
“It’s time we invest in our greatest potential, the people of Fresno, and this is how we are going to overcome the challenges that we face today with homelessness and public safety,” he said. “We are going to invest in our infrastructure in every single part of our city.”
At one point, security guards at Manchester shut the doors on protestors who were trying to enter. Some held up signs saying “God said no Dyer” and “Many don’t feel represented by Dyer now. We need someone who represents and protects all of Fresno.”
Dyer thanked the protestors, laughing as he called them his “friends outside” and acknowledged it was their right to voice their opinions.
“Dyer is pretty much an emergency for this community, he’s a very divisive figure,” said protester Shannon Curtz.
Curtz said she doesn’t want Dyer to be mayor because of his checkered past. She’s referring to an investigation into Dyer for allegedly having sex with a 16-year-old in 1985 when he was 26. And two years ago, The Fresno Bee reported Dyer’s right hand man, former Deputy Chief Keith Foster, was sentenced to four years in prison for conspiring to distribute heroin and marijuana.
“I think it’s a huge failure of city government that he has never been held accountable considering that all of this stuff is on the record,” Curtz said.
Dyer did not respond to a request for comment on those specific points. He told reporters he’s not a perfect police chief but “will sacrifice for this city and will give everything I know how to give for the citizens of Fresno.”
October 15 is Dyer’s last day as chief, and he said he won’t be campaigning on city time.
Community members in support of Dyer also showed up. They all stood behind him holding up his campaign signs that say “One Fresno.”
“I just think that he is very good candidate,” Roselyn Clark said. “Jerry loves our city. He can be very, very positive and he can make some changes that we desperately need in Fresno.”
Clark is a volunteer for the police department and has known Dyer for many years, she said, adding that he can be the person who unites the city.
Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp praised the work Dyer has done during his 18-year stint as police chief. On average, 50 percent of the cases that go to the DA’s office for prosecution are sent by the Fresno Police Department, Smittcamp said.
“That means that all other law enforcement agencies (in Fresno County) combined do not send us more cases than the Fresno PD,” she said.
Smittcamp called Dyer a “beacon of light in darkness” and “a champion of Fresno.” She says he knows how to get things done and is a “master” at bringing positive attention to the city.
Dyer's wife, children and other family members stood by him as he announced his candidacy. Fresno County Supervisors Nathan Magsig and Steve Brandau also joined Dyer at the press conference, as did former Fresno Mayor Alan Autry.
“Everyone is going to come with their 10-point economic plan,” Autry said. “Everyone is going to come with their plan on public safety. Everyone is going to come with their plan to revitalize neighborhoods and they're all going to be good. The key is can you bring people together to make that happen?”
Autry said he believes Dyer can bring people, even those who don’t like him, together to solve issues in Fresno.
Mayor Lee Brand is not seeking re-election and hasn’t said if he will support Dyer. Mark Standriff, director of communications and public affairs for the city, said in an email Brand is “staying neutral for the time being.”
So far, Fresno prosecutor Andrew Janz and Fresno City Council member Luis Chavez are also running for mayor.
In a statement, Janz said “I welcome Jerry’s entry into the race and I look forward to debating the issues with him. Our democracy works best when two competing visions are brought forth, weighed, and vigorously vetted by voters.”
Chavez did not respond to a request for comment.