Is Jerry Dyer the Boy Who Cried Wolf?

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Photo by: Kiran Kaur

Story By: Ben Hensley, Editor-In-Chief

“You look like you should be holding up round cards at a dog fight in Fresno.”

Those are the words of Hollywood personality and comedian Seth MacFarlane via the popular TV show “American Dad,” – and they’re not far off when it comes to the national recognition that the city seems to receive.

Beyond the successes and/or failures of the Bulldogs (the football team; not the gang) the Fresno area has been the center of political and social jokes for some time. Our residents are proud of the Valley. We are the agricultural hub of the country, but the stigma remains.

Are we prepared to allow that stigma to continue its reign?
Former Chief of Police Jerry Dyer announced his plans to run for mayor of Fresno on May 29, 2019 – nearly ten months ago. This announcement was received with praise from many and concern from others.

The two leading candidates in the upcoming 2020 election seem to be Andrew Janz – who in 2018 ran an unsuccessful campaign in an attempt to unseat incumbent Devin Nunes from his long standing position as the representative for California’s 22nd Congressional District, and Dyer –  a Fresno native and law enforcement constant for the past 40 years, 18 of which were spent as chief.

With the election looming, citizens have a decision to make on who to support. And much like the case of many elections, there are no perfect options.

But is established Fresno local and household name Jerry Dyer the name that Fresno residents deserve in the seat of the mayor’s office?

Dyer, who was sworn in as chief in 2001, was almost immediately met with public criticism.

Four days after his appointment as chief, The Fresno Bee ran a front page story stating that Dyer was twice investigated by the police, stemming from an alleged sexual encounter with a minor in 1985. Dyer, who has never publicly denied the allegations, rather refounded his faith, being quoted as stating, “God’s forgiven me. My wife’s forgiven me. The department’s forgiven me.”

The moral question stands to voters: is that sufficient to close a legal case?

The potential corruption and misinformation doesn’t end there.

In 2004, Dyer was accused by many of his involvement in the mysterious death of fellow officer Jose Morales just a stone’s throw away from Dyer’s residence. Morales, who it had been rumored was approaching termination from the force by Dyer himself, was found with a gunshot wound to the chest. His death was ultimately ruled a suicide despite conflicting evidence reports and the proximity to the Chief’s residence, prompting an outcry from the public and casting more doubt upon an already shadowed reputation.

In 2011, Deputy Chiefs Robert Nevarez and Shannon Schaffer sued Dyer, stating that he created a hostile work environment within the department, alleging that he made racist and sexist remarks while at the workplace. According to a report by The Fresno Bee, the City of Fresno settled for the sum of $100,000 to each Nevarez and Schaffer, $100,000 to each of their lawyers, as well as $820,000 in legal fees during the proceedings.

And as if the three major noted allegations weren’t enough, in 2017, then second-in-command Keith Foster was convicted as the leader of a drug trafficking ring directly under Dyer’s nose. The two had nearly mirrored one another at every turn, with Foster receiving promotions under Dyer all the way up to the level of assistant chief of police. Dyer, who was present in court at Foster’s defense, maintained that he trusted his second-in-command until the charges were handed down, stating in a seemingly unshaken tone that he was “shocked,” “hurt” and “betrayed” by Foster’s actions.

Reserving opinions regarding guilt of the listed accusations, are these major implications going to be swept under the rug yet again for the former Chief Dyer?

“Aesop’s Fables” tells the tale of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf,” in which a young boy continually cries out to his caretakers that there is a wolf that is hunting him, only to be discovered on numerous occasions to be falsely making the claim. One day there truly is a wolf, and when the frightened child calls out to his caretakers, they do not come, assuming it to be yet another shadow of misdirection.

How can we as a community not see the writing on the wall?

Even respecting Dyer’s innocence – which has seemingly come to be commonplace among his supporters – are these four major allegations not enough to call into question whether or not Dyer should continue to be at the center of the political spectrum in the Valley?

The election is just around the corner.

Should we as Fresnans be willing to accept the potential backlash and ridicule of electing a mayor with a track record of accusations such as Dyer? Or are his promises of “unifying Fresno” enough to breeze past the allegations of misconduct throughout his career and push him into the office of the most populated city in the Central Valley.

The position of mayor is a position that former representatives, senators and even presidents have held. Fresno will need to decide whether they want their future mayor to enter office under pretenses that continue to keep the city under the spotlight for positive reasons or reasons casting doubt on their public officials, voters and residents.