California Police Chief- Fall 2013 - Page 11

The Great Communicator Integrity, intelligence, skill, compassion among attributes Fresno mayor cites in describing chief’s success Jerry Dyer was a street cop for the Fresno Police Department for five years when he was involved in a shooting — a heady experience for any officer, especially one who was only 25 at the time. An 18-year-old junior college student was carrying a gun and threatening suicide in his mother’s home. After officers spent several minutes trying to get the young man to surrender, he pointed his weapon at several of them, police said, and was shot several times and killed. The police chief at the time of the shooting in 1985 maintained a firm “no comment” posture in the media and was criticized by some in the community for not telling his officers’ side of the story, or at least publicly defending their actions as the investigation into the controversial shooting played out. Ultimately, the Fresno P.D. prevailed in a civil lawsuit brought on behalf of the troubled student, but the experience taught Dyer — Fresno’s well-respected police chief since 2001 — a lesson in how to engage a community. “No one came out and defended or told our department’s stance,” Dyer said. “When I became police chief, I made a point that I would be speaking directly to the community on behalf of our officers to explain why they did what they did. The experience really shaped my viewpoint on why I believe police chiefs really should be directly engaging the community on officerinvolved shootings and other issues of that magnitude.” Dyer’s words could apply to the way Anaheim Police Chief John Welter has handled two back-to-back fatal shootings of documented gang members fleeing from cops — incidents in late July that became national news when one of the shootings sparked days of protest after some community members claimed the officers used unreasonable deadly force to take down Manuel Diaz, who was unarmed. The officer or officers who shot Diaz said they did so when the gang member nicknamed “Stomper” appeared to be reaching for something on his waistband. With results of several investigations into the Diaz shooting still months away, Welter, in an attempt to quell unrest, has been in front of TV cameras defending his department. He also has ventured out into the hard-scrabble neighborhood where the Diaz shooting occurred to speak to residents and community leaders. It’s an approach Dyer has been supporting even since his own OIS. As a police chief, Dyer has earned a reputation for remaining cool under fire and tackling tough issues head on. He is considered a gifted speaker and communicator who steps in front of TV cameras at news conferences nearly every week and frequently speaks at public forums, 20 | Behind The Badge BTB-Magazine-Fall2012.indd 20-21 “ When I became police chief, I made a point that I would be speaking directly to the community on behalf of our officers to explain why they did what they did. Fall 2012 ” | 21 11/8/12 11:30:39 PM