New SWAT ve­hi­cle is crit­i­cally needed

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - Opinion - BY GARRY BREDEFELD Garry Bredefeld rep­re­sents north­east Fresno on the City Coun­cil.

Pro­fes­sor Kathryn Forbes in her op-ed in The Bee (Aug. 11) ar­gues that the Fresno Po­lice Depart­ment has his­tor­i­cally used a mil­i­taris­tic ap­proach in deal­ing with crime, and specif­i­cally crit­i­cizes the City Coun­cil ap­prov­ing $200,000 in this year’s bud­get to pur­chase a new SWAT ve­hi­cle. She feels this pur­chase is “bonkers” and called it a “po­lice van­ity mobile.” She also re­jects the com­mon-sense be­lief that in or­der to re­duce crime and vi­o­lence, we need more po­lice of­fi­cers on the street, which would help fa­cil­i­tate more proac­tive en­gage­ment with the com­mu­nity. She, in­stead, be­lieves that “…decades of dis­in­vest­ment in shared pub­lic goods are at the root of vi­o­lence” and rather than spend $200,000 on a SWAT ve­hi­cle, that money should have been given to Ad­vance Peace. She couldn’t be more wrong.

Pro­fes­sor Forbes’ crit­i­cisms of the po­lice and need for the SWAT ve­hi­cle re­flect her lack of knowl­edge of the func­tion of the ve­hi­cle and what our po­lice face on the streets. Here are the facts: SWAT ve­hi­cles are used for im­ple­ment­ing high risk search war­rants; deal­ing with a bar­ri­caded gun­man; serv­ing as a bal­lis­tic shield for the SWAT unit; as­sist­ing tac­ti­cal po­lice units; and act­ing as a com­mand post where of­fi­cers can be briefed on the dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tion and plan oper­a­tions. The ve­hi­cle is also used to carry weapons, equip­ment and com­put­ers. This new ve­hi­cle re­places what was used for 42 years —a 1977 con­verted FAX bus that broke down all the time and had to be towed to crime scenes.

Fresno Po­lice Depart­ment also has ac­cess to an ar­mored res­cue ve­hi­cle that they share with Clo­vis PD and the Fresno Sher­iff’s Depart­ment. It is used when of­fi­cers are be­ing fired upon, pro­tects against ar­mor­pierc­ing bul­lets, and can be used for res­cue oper­a­tions. Pro­fes­sor Forbes might also ob­ject to this other “po­lice van­ity mobile.”

Rather than spend $200,000 on these kinds of needed ve­hi­cles that save lives, Pro­fes­sor Forbes would pre­fer this money be spent on Ad­vance Peace, an or­ga­ni­za­tion that gives crim­i­nals $500$1,000 per month hop­ing they will not com­mit more crimes in the fu­ture. Ad­vance Peace also sought to have a com­mit­ment from the city of $300,000 ev­ery year for five years. Wher­ever this pro­gram has been ini­ti­ated, not sur­pris­ingly, there is no ev­i­dence that it’s ef­fec­tive. Frankly, spend­ing any tax­payer money on Ad­vance Peace would have been fis­cally reck­less and com­pletely ir­re­spon­si­ble. The pro­gram sim­ply doesn’t pass the gig­gle test.

De­spite the tremen­dous ef­forts of our po­lice of­fi­cers to keep our city safe, they are clearly un­der­staffed and some­times out­gunned. We should have at least 1,000 po­lice of­fi­cers for a city the size of Fresno, but only have 835. We have five of­fi­cers for the Home­less Task Force and we need 15-20 more to deal with the in­creas­ing home­less prob­lem. There are about 1,000 gangs in Fresno and about 18,000-20,000 gang mem­bers. These gangs and crim­i­nals of­ten have an arse­nal of au­to­matic weapons, high­ca­pac­ity mag­a­zines, and ar­mor­pierc­ing bul­lets.

As a re­sult of Propo­si­tions 47, 57, and AB 109, crim­i­nal laws have been weak­ened dra­mat­i­cally, and the crim­i­nals know it and are em­bold­ened. This was shock­ingly ev­i­dent this past week when in Orange County a ca­reer crim­i­nal was re­leased early from prison due to AB 109 and went on a mur­der­ous ram­page knif­ing to death four in­no­cent peo­ple. Heart­break­ingly, after a traf­fic stop in River­side, an of­fi­cer was killed in a gun bat­tle.

The at­tacks against our po­lice are also political. We re­cently wit­nessed po­lice of­fi­cers be­ing as­saulted in New York, hes­i­tat­ing to re­spond due to the political at­tacks they’ve re­ceived there. In Cal­i­for­nia ear­lier this year, Sacra­mento politician­s at­tempted to pass a law (AB 392) that would have changed the stan­dard when a po­lice of­fi­cer uses deadly force. It would have gone from “rea­son­able” to “nec­es­sary.” This would have en­sured that our com­mu­ni­ties were more un­safe as po­lice would be less likely to be proac­tive in deal­ing with crime, and might not re­act quickly enough when faced with life-threat­en­ing sit­u­a­tions for both them­selves and the pub­lic. The lan­guage in the bill has now been mod­i­fied.

My job is to make sure the brave men and women of our po­lice depart­ment have all the re­sources, equip­ment, and sup­port they need to en­sure the safety of our com­mu­nity, and also that they re­turn home safely to their fam­i­lies. I take my re­spon­si­bil­ity se­ri­ously. This is why we need to add more po­lice of­fi­cers, com­mu­nity ser­vice of­fi­cers, 911 dis­patch­ers, and yes, a new SWAT ve­hi­cle. While some may crit­i­cize our po­lice from ivory tow­ers and with­out all the facts, I will con­tinue to stand with and sup­port our po­lice of­fi­cers who ev­ery day risk their lives to make us all safe.

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