Who You Gonna Call? (Or: It's A Good Thing Most Of The Public Grades The Mayor On A HUGE Curve)

BOO! Did you miss me? Of course not, because I didn't give you time to miss me did I? You'd better get used to that...

The Fresno Bee story I've linked to after the jump is upsetting, but it's hardly surprising if you've been paying attention at all - "police are conducting an internal investigation," the story points out. They'd have to do it themselves, wouldn't they? Since Fresno no longer HAS an Independent Police Auditor and even when they did, his power was limited to "reviewing completed police investigations FOR QUALITY CONTROL." 

This title card from a Buster Keaton silent movie seems pretty silly, right? But is it?

Night Out Ends In Brawl For Off-Duty Fresno Cops

So if you don't feel like reading a full Bee article, here's what happened Cliff's Notes-style: Three off duty Fresno police officers and their wives ended up in a scuffle with the bouncer of Laughing Buddah Bar & Grill. The officers involved (and their wives) had reportedly been enjoying some "adult beverages" throughout their evening and at one point got into a fight with each other. Said bouncer attempted to cool the sitch, and the rest is "an internal investigation." 

Why not an investigation by the Independent Police Auditor? Again, the post is vacant. Even if it wasn't, the office of Independent Police Auditor has no power to do its own investigation. That's why a Fresno County Grand Jury called the position "a symbolic attempt by the leaders of Fresno to demonstrate to the public that an unbiased, independent review body monitors police activities." The Grand Jury then went on to point out that the "demonstration" was entirely a hollow one.

In this incident in the Tower, not ONE officer was arrested, placed on leave or sanctioned. An FPD spokesman offered the rather weak excuse that "conflicting information provided to police did not clearly identify 'the primary aggressor to substantiate an arrest.'" This seems odd considering witnesses reported both that the off duty police officers had been drinking before they got to the restaurant and that they had been quarreling among themselves for a while before a bouncer working for the business felt compelled to intervene, resulting in his injury to the tune of a "swollen eye and a bruised body."

As Bay Area public radio station KALW points out in its story about the Grand Jury's report on the IPA, the office is particularly important because of "Fresno County District Attorney Elizabeth Egan’s decision [in 2010] to stop investigating all officer-involved shootings and in-custody deaths." I'm not CERTAIN if those investigations have resumed, but if news stories about the multiple police-involved shootings in Fresno in the ensuing time are to be believed, the incidents ARE NOW investigated. (BTW, it's pretty sad that it's sometimes necessary to go all the way to the coast to find media either capable or willing to do an in-depth report on a LOCAL issue.)

Now gang, I have a question for you: Who is (and has been through all of this) the boss of the Fresno County Police Department AND the Fresno County District Attorney? Bingo. Mayor Ashley Swearengin. You know her, she's the woman local media have already all but handed the reins back to for the next four years. She's the one that bills herself in press releases published as "news stories" and on her Facebook page as "a dynamic leader for Fresno. She leads by building coalitions of experienced and capable experts to solve problems in honest and thoughtful ways." I'm not sure the way she's handled this whole IPA issue could be called either "leadership" or "honest and thoughtful." 

It's downright shameful that a city the size of Fresno - California's biggest land-locked city and its sixth largest overall - can't seem to get it together when it comes to protecting its citizens. And in reality, Mayor Swearengin and city government are also letting down the Police Department. An independent review is often more critical in exonerating an officer involved in an incident where there are questions than it is in trying to prove wrongdoing.

How do YOU feel about that?

"Neilette: 'We put all our politicians in prison as soon as they're elected. Don't you?' 
Rincewind: 'Why?' 
Neilette: 'It saves time.' " - Terry Pratchett, "The Last Continent"

Be alert. The world needs more "lerts".... Jim

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