California Police Chief- Fall 2013 - Page 12

In addition, between 2002 and 2011, traffic collisions resulting in an injury decreased by 43 percent, while the number of people killed in traffic collisions fell by 42 percent. In 2002, 52 people lost their lives in traffic collisions as compared to 30 fatalities in 2011. During this nine year period, 174 fewer families had to bury a loved one due to a traffic collision in Fresno, Dyer said. tackling such thorny issues as a federal civil rights lawsuit over his department’s alleged use of deadly force, as well as recent accusations of sexism and racism within the Fresno P.D. “I’ve always believed that if you’re not out in front of the story, then you become the story,” said Dyer, 53, who takes that same proactive and clear-headed approach to dealing with budget and staffing challenges within his department. Dyer, a former president of the California Police Chiefs Association, is described as a leader who seeks solutions instead of dodging problems — a style that has won him the admiration of other city officials. “We are extremely lucky to have him,” Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin said. “He’s an incredible gifted leader who not only is widely recognized for his leadership in public safety, but for his leadership in general.” Dyer almost retired last year. Like other police chiefs, he had become concerned with economic conditions that have reduced staffing and caused the department to stretch to meet the needs of the community with fewer resources. A Fresno P.D. that four years ago had 849 sworn officers is now down to 744, with overall police department staffing shrinking during that same period to 940, down from 1,322. The Fresno P.D., Dyer said, continues to lose police officers through attrition and currently there are no immediate plans to replace them.Compounding the staffing issue is parole reform and the early release of prisoners, which has forced the Fresno P.D. and all law enforcement agencies statewide to focus their resources on highest-priority duties. Dyer estimates that in Fresno alone, an additional 50 to 60 people are being released to the streets daily because of jail 22 | Behind The Badge BTB-Magazine-Fall2012.indd 22-23 overcrowding and the shifting of state inmates to local jurisdictions. With resources now focused on high-priority crimes, Dyer has asked Fresno residents — the city has a population of about 510,000 — to be patient with delays in response times to lower-priority calls, and also to self-report some crimes via the police department’s website. In July 2011, Dyer announced his retirement. “The closer I got to leaving,” Dyer said, “the more of an appreciation I felt for the department, the community and the position. The longer you’re in a leadership role, the more of a toll it can take on you. You can start to lose your enjoyment for the job, and that started to happen to me.” But by November 2011, Dyer had changed his mind — partly the result of an outpouring of support from officers, residents and city leaders, including City Manager Mark Scott, who publicly declared that he could find no better chief to protect Fresno r esidents than Dyer. Dyer said another factor that played into his decision to remain on indefinitely as Fresno police chief was his belief that in these challenging times, stability and strong leadership is needed at the position of the city’s top cop — and crime statistics underscore Dyer’s strong performance as police chief. Between 2001 and 2011, overall crime rates in Fresno have fallen by 20 percent. That equates to 6,800 fewer crimes per year. Crimes against persons such as murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault have fallen by 28 percent during the same period, and property-type crimes, such as burglary, larceny, auto theft, and arson, have decreased by nearly 18 percent. Such achievements in the traffic division has led to the Fresno P.D. receiving three first-place finishes in the National Law Enforcement Challenge sponsored by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, as well as being honored for having the top DUI program in the country. Dyer said his department has been able to more than triple the size of its traffic unit without cost to taxpayers by holding traffic offenders accountable for the cost of their own enforcement through vehicle impound fees and citation revenue. During his first six to seven years as police chief, Dyer restructured the Fresno P.D. as it grew. But over the last four years, he’s been restructuring it based on a decline in personnel and other resources. This has forced Dyer to get creative. For example, as a result of a spike in shooting and decreased staffing, the chief has taken detectives and other officers not normally assigned to patrol and has assigned them to work in patrol on weekend and night shifts periodically. Such an interim move could become part of the department’s long-term restructuring as it continues, Dyer said.The Fresno P.D. also has been recognized nationally for its volunteers programs, which include citizens on patrol, chaplains and reserve officers. “We maximize the usage of all of our volunteers,” Dyer said. Swearengin said there’s no better chief than Dyer to steer the department through challenging times. “He’s very quantitative and systems minded, which is unusual for someone who runs a public-safety agency,” the mayor said. “He knows a lot of data and has an intimate knowledge of the department’s budget and statistics. He’s also good at engaging with people and the community. “He’s a person of integrity, both on the job and in his personal life,” added Swearengin, who has known Dyer for about eight years. “He’s a great combination of someone who has intelligence and a great skill set, but who also has the heart to be compassionate about the city he serves.” Policing runs in Dyer’s family. His father and a sister are among five relatives currently or formerly working at the Fresno P.D. Married for 32 years to his wife, Diane, Dyer has two children who — perhaps surprisingly — have not followed their father into law enforcement. His son, 27, is a fencing contractor and his daughter, 24, is a special education teacher. When Dyer isn’t policing, he’s likely pumping iron. The 5-foot-11, 220-pound police chief is an avid weightlifter. “I try to set an example for all of our police officers on the importance of staying in shape,” Dyer said. Dyer also enjoys watching sprint-car races and taking the occasional cruise with his wife. He also is very active as a deacon in his church and for many years taught Sunday school. Being police chief, for now and in the immediate future, remains his biggest passion. And Fresno, with an unemployment rate of around 15 percent and about 20,000 documented gang members, appears to be just as passionate about keeping Dyer around. “In spite of these challenging times, we can still prevail in law enforcement,” Dyer said. “We have to be more creative and utilize our state and federal partners more often, and we have to find new ways of getting the job done.” • Fall 2012 | 23 11/8/12 11:30:46 PM