FRESNO, California (KGPE) – The president of the Fresno Police Officers’ Association said it will be disastrous for the city if Fresno cannot attract more police officers.
The department is currently down by around 60 officers and is projected to lose another 50 in the next year. FPOA President Brandon Wiemiller believes understaffing is leading to slower response times – and the city’s crime spike.
“There is obviously a direct correlation and effect on the community and their safety,” said Wiemiller. “These are families being destroyed. Not just by the murder rate but the shootings. “
In 2020, Fresno’s crime statistics show 780 shootings and 70 murders. That trend is continuing into 2021 with 12 homicides recorded already.
Even with officers working 15-hour days, Wiemiller said there was an instance recently where a shooting victim had to wait 10 minutes for help because all other officers were busy.
“Just imagine your loved one laying on the ground shot,” said Wiemiller. “You have called 911 and think of how long ten minutes is.”
The city budget allows for around 840 officers, but the department is down 60. The crime spike, understaffing, social climate, and COVID-19 pandemic all factors. Wiemiller also cited a lack of support from Fresno City Council, leading to low retention and recruitment.
“We can’t attract cops to come here,” he said.
Councilmember Mike Karbassi is fed up with some of his colleagues “bad mouthing” police.
“The rhetoric has to stop,” said Karbassi. “We have to grow up. We have to stop being Democrats and Republicans. We have to start supporting public safety. That is the number one responsibility and if they are unwilling to do that they really should resign.”
Council President Luis Chavez argued the council as a whole does support law enforcement and points to the $40 million increase to the department’s budget since 2018.
“Collectively as a body, we have voted to support our police officers regardless of what is said on social media or what is interpreted,” said Chavez.