Fresno Mayor Lee Brand and Mayor-Elect Jerry Dyer announced Tuesday the police department’s next chief. Juan “Paco” Balderrama will be the first Hispanic police chief in the city’s history.
“It’s been clear from the start that Fresno wants a chief who can make changes, build trust, and increase safety for all of our residents,” Brand said at the press conference, referencing the many public community discussions and surveys conducted by the Fresno Police Reform Commission.
Balderrama said he wants to work to improve the relationship between Fresno residents and the police department. When he steps into office on January 11 replacing current Police Chief Andy Hall, he said his main priorities will be community trust and safety.
“I really think that through professionalism, accountability, transparency and community engagement we can get those things done,” he said.
Balderrama said he was surprised to learn he is the first Hispanic police chief given the city is about half Latino.
“I am who I am and I represent not only my family, but the Hispanic community and that’s something I take very seriously,” Balderramma said. “And it’s humbling to me.”
Balderrama will also be a member of the task force assigned to consider recommendations from the recent police reform commission report, according to Brand.
“I think a lot of those [recommendations] make a lot of sense,” Balderrama said of the report. “Many of those recommendations are common sense recommendations and they’re national standards.”
It’s not Balderrama’s first time breaking barriers within police departments. Before being selected as Fresno’s 22nd police chief, Balderrama served as the first Hispanic deputy chief for the Oklahoma City Police Department. In his 21 years with the department he wore many hats including patrol officer, field officer, and public information officer.
According to a website that tracks police violence, Balderrama’s former department ranks second in police violence in the nation. The study shows Oklahoma City police killed 24 black men from February 2013 to February 2019. In the same study, Fresno ranks 25th.
When asked specifically how he would protect the African American community in Fresno, Balderrama said, “changing the way we do things, increasing community engagement, not focusing so much on certain calls that are not crime related.” He added that there are many conversations around race and policing that need to be had.