Correction appended at the end of the post. Ali Winston's investigation into police abuses in California might be having an impact sooner than we expected. His story published this weekend in conjunction with The Nation Institute's Investigative Fund revealed that at least 25 Fresno cops who have been involved in repeat shootings are still on active duty. Now Fresno's Police Chief Jerry Dyer has told a local TV reporter that investigations like Winston's might just keep cops from shooting next time.
Says Dyer: "What worries me is when articles like this are published and the names of officers are put out there publicly, what worries me is those officers, in the next situation that they're confronted with a deadly force decision, that they freeze simply because they do not want to have the spotlight turned on them."
Dyer's argument (cops need their privacy to be free to shoot) is an old one and as Winston's story revealed it has spawned a veil of secrecy in Fresno's police department, which is now being investigated by the FBI's Sacramento office for the beating of an unarmed homeless man in 2009. Fresno got its first independent police auditor last November and apparently that's the only person monitoring the cops there now. The Fresno Bee reported this weekend that the District Attorney's office is broke and will stop investigating shootings involving officers, although since the records aren't open to the public it's not clear what, if any, investigating they were doing. Earlier this month, the family of a man fatally shot by Fresno cops filed a federal lawsuit against the department, and in a separate case, the city has agreed to pay more than $3 million to people who were injured when cops broke up a family party with batons. Correction: Please note that the original post stated that the FBI is investigating the Fresno police department for the murder of a homeless man. The man, who was unarmed, was beaten but is still alive. Photo: San Francisco Bay Area Independent Media Center