Po­lice Chief Jerry Dyer should go on leave while he runs for Fresno mayor

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - Opinion - BY THE FRESNO BEE EDI­TO­RIAL BOARD

For the past 40 years Jerry Dyer has been a Fresno Po­lice Depart­ment em­ployee. For the last 18, he has been chief of po­lice. His ded­i­ca­tion goes with­out say­ing, and his oft­stated love for the city and its res­i­dents is gen­uine.

So it was no sur­prise, re­ally, when he an­nounced on May 29 that he would seek to be­come Fresno’s next mayor. Cur­rent Mayor Lee Brand plans to step down at the end of his first term, leav­ing the field wide open for con­tenders vy­ing in next March’s pri­mary.

Dyer’s of­fi­cial fi­nal day with the po­lice depart­ment is Oct. 16. He plans to take a leave well be­fore then, how­ever, likely some­time in Au­gust, so he can be­gin cam­paign­ing in earnest.

That’s a good idea, but does not go far enough. He should start the leave now to avoid any ap­pear­ances of con­flict of in­ter­est while he wears his chief’s hat and is a can­di­date, too.

Dyer, how­ever, said he does not want to start tak­ing leave now. In a meet­ing with The Bee’s Edi­to­rial Board, Dyer said June is the critical month for fi­nal­iz­ing the com­ing year’s bud­get, and he wanted to re­main in charge of that for the po­lice depart­ment, given his long ex­pe­ri­ence in pre­par­ing the

spend­ing plan. That is an honor­able mo­ti­va­tion. But it sug­gests there is not enough staff knowl­edge un­der­neath Dyer in the or­ga­ni­za­tion, which is wor­ri­some.

He also out­lined steps he is tak­ing to avoid any con­flicts of in­ter­est, real or ap­pear­ances of them. He has given up his citypro­vided car, and is driv­ing his per­sonal ve­hi­cle. He does not wear his uni­form to cam­paign events, and does not do elec­tion busi­ness on work time. He has a per­sonal cell phone for cam­paign-re­lated calls.

That is all good, as it should be. But Dyer ad­mit­ted to the edi­to­rial board that he can­not con­trol how oth­ers might per­ceive him as he goes about his day — po­lice chief in this venue, may­oral can­di­date in the next.

And that goes to the heart of the prob­lem: He can­not con­trol ap­pear­ances of con­flict while he re­mains the ac­tive chief. No one be­grudges Dyer from want­ing to run for mayor. But if he is go­ing to do that, he needs to go all in and step away from his chief job. It is all about keep­ing the lines clear of con­fu­sion.

Here’s a hy­po­thet­i­cal: Dyer is out to lunch while on a work day and is wear­ing his uni­form. Dyer is known by lots of Fres­nans, so peo­ple come up to say hi while he eats in the restau­rant. One of those who stops by is a lo­cal de­vel­oper. Now, is Dyer talk­ing to him about crime trends? Or is the de­vel­oper ask­ing how to make a con­tri­bu­tion to Dyer’s cam­paign?

Dyer can­not con­trol how other peo­ple in­ter­act with him, but he cer­tainly can de­ter­mine how peo­ple will know him at the mo­ment. As it stands, is the pub­lic to see him as po­lice chief, or as may­oral can­di­date? It may be clear to Dyer, but it is not to the pub­lic, and that is the prob­lem.

Sup­port­ers of Dyer will crit­i­cize this edi­to­rial by say­ing it is quib­bling over the dif­fer­ence of two months — June and July. Once Au­gust rolls around, Dyer will likely take his leave (us­ing 600 hours of ac­crued va­ca­tion time, he said) so he can be­come a full-time can­di­date.

But un­til then, the ques­tion of con­flicts of in­ter­est will be asked.

An elec­tion for mayor is al­ways an im­por­tant event, and Fresno needs a ro­bust field of can­di­dates. Join­ing Dyer as can­di­dates are City Coun­cil­man Luis Chavez, county pros­e­cu­tor An­drew Janz; Elliott Balch, chief op­er­a­tions of­fi­cer of the Cen­tral Val­ley Com­mu­nity Foun­da­tion; and Richard Ren­te­ria, a lo­cal in­sur­ance bro­ker who ran for mayor in 2016.

When it comes to con­flicts of in­ter­est, coun­cil mem­bers in some ways have an eas­ier road than oth­ers. The pub­lic un­der­stands coun­cil mem­bers are al­ways run­ning for re-elec­tion or fur­ther of­fice; it goes with the ter­ri­tory.

When Janz, a Demo­crat, ran for Congress last year against Rep. Devin Nunes, the Repub­li­can from Tu­lare, some lo­cal con­ser­va­tives charged Janz with us­ing work time to cam­paign, even though he clocked off and clocked back on the same way Dyer is now. Janz’s boss, District At­tor­ney Lisa Smittcamp, also said Janz had scrupu­lous at­ten­tion to his work time. Will those con­ser­va­tives have sim­i­lar con­cerns now about Dyer? Pol­i­tics be­ing what it is, prob­a­bly not.

What mat­ters to vot­ers most is un­der­stand­ing what can­di­dates think about is­sues and who sup­ports them. For Dyer, leav­ing the po­lice chief job, one he has loved for nearly 20 years, would be the right thing to do. Then he could be­gin ex­press­ing his af­fec­tion for Fresno solely as a can­di­date, out­lin­ing his views and list­ing those who back him.

ERIC PAUL ZAMORA [email protected]­nobee.com

Audrey Red­mond, left, hugs Fresno Po­lice Chief Jerry Dyer, who for­mally an­nounced his may­oral can­di­dacy Wed­nes­day.

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