The Fresno City Council unanimously voted to accept the Fresno Police Reform Commission's report on Thursday. But as councilmembers clarified in the Zoom meeting, that doesn’t mean all 72 recommendations will be implemented immediately.
The report will be handed off to a seven-member Police Reform Implementation Team that will review the recommendations and decide what further action is necessary. That may include a budget review, a meet-and-confer contract or a policy change, according to councilmember Miguel Arias. But ultimately, the council gets the final word.
All 72 recommendations, including changes to the Fresno Police Department’s use-of-force policy, dismantling the homeless task force and improving police oversight were unanimously approved by the 39 members on the commissions, according to commission chairperson Oliver Baines. Over time the responsibilities of a police officer have increased, Baines said in the Thursday meeting.
“And it puts police officers in situations that they are not adequately trained to deal with nor should they have to deal with particularly when they are not criminal in nature,” Baines said.
The purpose of the recommendations is to align police officers with their main mission of reducing and responding to violent crimes, Baines said, while presenting the final recommendations to the council.
Nevertheless, it’s the national and local response to the use of force against George Floyd that he credits for getting the commission started in Fresno.
In the report, the commission recommends that use of force should only be used for the protection of human life.
“That is a protective use-of-force policy,” Baines said. “That is the one down the line that I think will potentially save a life of a person that may be unarmed, fleeing from an officer.”
There are seven overarching themes throughout the report, according to Sandra Celedon, executive director for Building Healthy Communities. One of those themes is visibility and trust by the public during police department oversight processes.
“There’s also a need for being reflective of geographic and demographic diversity in the city and in any oversight endeavors,” Celedon noted.
Councilmembers showed their appreciation for the commission's work, with councilmember Miguel Arias stating he would completely back the 72 recommendations. But councilmembers Mike Karbarssi and Garry Bredefeld hesitated to show full support.
“I’m going to give every single recommendation a fair chance,” Karbassi said. “I admit I have certain feelings about certain ones but I’m going to look at them.”
Karbassi added he would need to speak with his constituents before making any concrete decisions. Bredefeld agreed that further consideration was needed as he already disagreed with some of the recommendations.
“Off the top, I do support the homeless task force,” Bredefeld said. “I don’t think they terrorize the homeless.”
Councilmembers, including the mayor, are now charged with appointing a team member to the Police Reform Implementation Team. The official appointment will take place on January 7th.