FRESNO – After a decade, a changing of the guard is imminent for the Fresno Police Department, where Chief Jerry Dyer broke the news on Tuesday that he was retiring.
Dyer spent the last 10 years serving as the city’s police chief, but has worked for the department for 32 years. Beginning Thursday, Dyer’s title changes to “interim chief” until a successor can be found.
“I love the city of Fresno and I love the Fresno Police Department,” Dyer said at his news conference inside the City Hall annex. “It’s difficult for me to pull away, but I know that the timing is right.”
Dyer was rumored to be hinting at retirement earlier this year. However, uncertainty over the police department budget may have played a role in delaying any announcement.
During his tenure as police chief, the city saw a 12 percent decrease in violent crimes over the past year. This came during a time when the department was dealing with staff cutbacks and a county jail that was experiencing its own money woes, woes that have led to some empty beds inside the detention facility.
Since the budget issues began for the department in 2009, several hundred civilian staff positions have been eliminated and the number of sworn officers working under Chief Dyer dropped by 10 percent.
Under Dyer, the department created tactical units to help counter the increasing gang violence in the city, resulting in a sweep of the Bulldog gang, the largest and most renowned crime organization in the Central Valley. The sweeps were responsible for 12,000 arrests between November 2006 and November 2009.
Dyer’s main emphasis as chief was combating drunk driving in the city. DUI checkpoints at some of the city’s busiest intersections helped net nine impaired motorists on Feb. 15 and 10 during a DUI crackdown on New Year’s Day.
The renewed focus on drunk driving came at a time when Men’s Health Magazine named Fresno the drunkest city in America, according to DUI arrest data.
Dyer’s decade-long reign was not without its share of controversy and setbacks, however.
In 2005, four of Dyer’s police officers were charges with civil rights violations and obstruction of justice charges following a confrontation with a man during a domestic dispute call in southeast Fresno.
The victim, Rolando Celdon, was repeatedly punched and kicked, and bitten by a police dog before being shot by officers. A federal grand jury indicted the officers back in October and all four have pleaded not guilty.
On March 7, two of Dyer’s deputy chiefs, Robert Nevarez and Sharon Shaffer, both accused Dyer of making disparaging and even racist remarks toward women, Asians and African-American co-workers. Both Nevarez and Shaffer filed a lawsuit against Dyer claiming that he helped create a hostile work environment.
Attorneys for Dyer countered that no evidence of a hostile work environment was found after a five-month independent investigation was conducted.
Most recently, Dyer had been dealing with a rise in auto theft crime. A June 21 release from the National Insurance Crime Bureau rated Fresno the No.1 city for auto thefts with a rate of 812.40 crimes per 100,000 people, a 40.2 percent increase from last year.
Dyer blamed the hike in auto thefts on the city’s high unemployment rate – 18 percent – and understaffing at the Fresno County jail, which has lost 74 officers due to budget cuts and layoffs.
Even so, the outgoing police chief received kind words from other city leaders, including Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims.
“I am sure this is a bittersweet time for the chief,” Mims said. “Even though we know the day of retirement will come when we start our careers, it is still difficult when you are as dedicated and passionate about what you do as Jerry is. The Fresno Police Department has capable staff and officers who I know will continue to work hard and see the department through the upcoming transition period.”