FRESNO, California (KSEE/KGPE) — The Fresno Police Department has a new chief who didn’t have to apply for the job. Deputy Chief Andy Hall is officially the city’s interim police chief. While city leaders touted the process that got him there was transparent from the beginning — community leaders argue the opposite.
More than 1,200 responses came in for the survey, six community meetings were held, and the candidate list was narrowed to five — despite all of that, though, a permanent police chief for the city of Fresno wasn’t hired.
“The community told us everything that was important to them,” city manager Wilma Quan said. “That we didn’t pick one of the candidates simply means we did not find the individual we were looking for. (The individual) that our community deserves. That’s OK.”
Quan added it was just a matter of not having the right candidate at the right time, with the only good option for now was appointing Hall to the post.
When he took the podium at the announcement Friday morning, he spoke directly to members of the community who felt let down by the process.
“All I’m asking for everyone involved in the process, in the community, is to give me an opportunity,” Hall said. “To prove to you that I am the right person for this job at this time. To allow me to gain your trust.”
He said he’s still figuring out his goals, but noted soon-to-retire Chief Jerry Dyer recently hired a number of staff ranked as captains and higher.
“My goal and my job I believe is going to be developing those executive staff and personnel — to take this department to the next level,” he said.
The issue of transparency
While Ashley Rojas was on-board with the process at the start, by the end she said it “deteriorated.”
Rojas, the executive director of Fresno Barrios Unidos, said after learning about the survey and community meetings — she made sure to get her communities to participate.
“(We made sure in) getting young people and their families to those conversations the city held in regard to our needs. (We made sure) folks were submitting surveys online and in-person,” she said.
But, when the finalists were selected and the interviews with them were conducted in private by a select panel — that’s when Rojas got concerned. Even knowing community members were on those panels, since they have signed a non-disclosure agreement to not discuss interviews.
It’s why she joined with other community members Friday outside City Hall Annex to make sure her anger was heard and seen — holding signs demanding transparency and better treatment of youth.
Rojas was particularly upset when she and others weren’t allowed to be inside where the announcement was.
“It’s very suspicious and poorly presented. (The announcement) was moved from a public venue to a private venue, where I was escorted out of the building,” she said.
Vowing to find a permanent police chief
Mayor Lee Brand and other city staff remained adamant during the announcement that the process was transparent through and through. Due to city policy, Hall will have to retire by Spring 2021 — but Brand said he plans to have a replacement before his term ends next year.
“I have total confidence in (Hall) in the interim, but I want to leave this place with a new chief in place,” Brand said.
City leaders weren’t able to say exactly what the new search will look like, but they assured it will involve community input again. Rojas said she and her communities are ready to participate again, but will be more cautious this time.
Hall will also help with filling his old position and mentioned the search for that role will begin soon.