This article first appeared in the January 2020 edition of Fresno’s Community Alliance newspaper
By Mike Rhodes
(Editor’s note: The best indication of how a person will behave in the future is to look at what they have done in their past. This is a common theme when an employer is looking to hire a new employee. Jerry Dyer has applied to be the mayor of Fresno, and… this month Mike Rhodes dives into Dyer’s past in a way only a handful of people could do. Rhodes grew up in Fresno and has been a political activist here for 50 years. He was the editor of [the Community Alliance] newspaper for 15 years)
[In February] the Community Alliance will have an article that exposes the corruption of the police chiefs who came before Dyer, showing that his deeply disturbing behavior is a tradition in Fresno that goes back for generations.
If you like Donald Trump, then you would love to have Jerry Dyer as the next mayor of Fresno. Progressives view Dyer as a mini Trump who would wreak havoc in this community—like Trump has done nationally.
Kathryn Forbes, a women’s studies professor at Fresno State, wrote a Valley Voices article for the Fresno Bee and declared, “Make no mistake. Electing Dyer will only forward a hopelessly unimaginative civic agenda that aims to prioritize the aims of law enforcement as a violent, self-interested bureaucratic entity over the needs of our community. Clearly, Dyer’s only response to community problems is more cops on the street, more weapons and a bigger SWAT vehicle.”
Some critics are even harsher. Fresno police officers Robert Nevarez and Sharon Shaffer filed a lawsuit against their boss in 2011 claiming that Dyer’s ringtone for Cynthia Sterling, an African-American former Fresno City Council member, was a slave song: “Mammy’s little baby loves short’nin’ bread.”
The lawsuit also alleged that Dyer would mimic stereotypical slave dialect, making comments including; “yessa massa, I is yo pet” and “Um hum, I’m the mayor’s boy, I’m the mayor’s boy, yes’um, I’m the mayor’s boy.”
Dyer is alleged in the lawsuit to have made derogatory and racial comments repeatedly and/or actions relating to different races, including, but not limited to African Americans and Japanese. Such comments/actions included the following:
- “You know brothers can’t resist watermelons.”
- “You know brothers love melons.”
- Routinely refers to African Americans as “brothers.”
- During a meeting discussing fist strikes to the face, Dyer commented that “fist strikes to the face should never occur, unless it is a brother, because brothers don’t have bones in their noses.”
- Dyer’s cellular phone ring tone for Blong Xiong, a former Southeast Asian Fresno City Council member, was an Oriental sounding ringtone.
- Dyer refers to a female Japanese employee in the Fresno Police Department (FPD) as his little “geisha girl.”
- Dyer makes offensive and demeaning comments about women, including but not limited to 1) comments about police department employees’ clothes and cleavage, 2) commenting that an employee must be out looking for a husband and 3) comments about certain female employees never having to pay for drinks when they go out socially.
- Dyer has made offensive remarks relating to charging the County of Fresno an administrative fee for administering a grant, stating, “Good, rape them (laughing), and make them feel they liked it.”
- Dyer on numerous occasions demeaningly referred to City Hall as being run like a “sorority” because the mayor at the time (Ashley Swearengin) and her chiefs of staff were primarily women.
- The deputy city manager required FPD employees to place their hands upon then Police Chief Dyer and pray over him in order to cast away evil spirits while at City Hall.
The Atlantic magazine reported that Nevarez and Shaffer settled the case for $300,000. Nevarez is now the police chief in Delano, and Shaffer retired in 2015.
Is having sex with a 16-year-old girl when you are in your mid-20s and an officer in the FPD an “affair” (as a headline in the Fresno Bee suggested) or statutory rape? The issue came up in the campaign after someone altered a Dyer for Mayor billboard (see the accompanying photo).
Dyer does not deny the allegation but has excused his behavior saying he has been forgiven. He told the Bee, “All I can tell you is that the relationships that I have had outside of my marriage, when I was a young man, have been dealt with. God’s forgiven me. My wife’s forgiven me. This department’s forgiven me and looked into a lot of things in my past.”
Fresno Rising Together–No Dyer 2020 is an active group that has emerged to oppose Dyer’s election for mayor. Its mission statement says that “we want to ensure a brighter future for our city. Fresno needs leadership that will move us forward, a leader that will unite us. Jerry Dyer is NOT that leader.”
Another group running an Independent Expenditure campaign to expose Dyer is the Central Valley Progressive PAC (CVPPAC). Its campaign is focused on getting out the vote among youth in south Fresno through social media.
Simone Cranston-Rhodes, chair of the CVPPAC, says the group is trying this new approach to “not only defeat Dyer but also elect Andrew Janz and increase voter turnout among the youth south of Shaw Avenue.
“Social media platforms are what young people use these days for their news and information, so we are going to see if we can get more youth to participate in the democratic process.”
Progressive activists, including Gloria Hernandez with No More Stolen Lives, sent a California Public Records Act request to the City of Fresno to see how much taxpayer money was spent to pay off victims of the FPD under Dyer’s watch. They received documentation of civil rights violations, excessive force, employment practices and wrongful death cases from July 1, 2007, to Oct. 2, 2019.
The wrongdoing by the FPD under Dyer’s leadership has cost taxpayers more than $23 million over the past 12 years. To see some of the details of how much we paid for the privilege of being abused by the FPD see the “Police Liability Report” on page x.).
Deputy Chief Keith Foster, Dyer’s second in command, was arrested in 2015 and charged with selling drugs, including heroin. He was later convicted and is now serving time in prison.
Why did it take an outside law enforcement team (from the FBI and ATF) to uncover this criminal activity? Benjamin Potts, with the group Fresno United Against Jerry Dyer, said that Dyer “is either criminally incompetent or corrupt with respect to his handling of Keith Foster’s drug ring,” and that “he absolutely has more to say surrounding the death of Jose Moralez, which has been continuously swept under the rug since 2004.”
In an article published by KQED, writer Andrew Beale marveled at how Dyer survived the Foster controversy and others. That includes allegations he had sex with a minor and having a high-ranking FPD officer (Moralez) and good friend end up dead in front of his house.
Beale wrote that “Moralez was found dead, shot in the chest just 200 feet from Dyer’s house. The chief was reportedly considering firing Moralez for lying. The shooting was ultimately ruled a suicide. But it’s become something of an urban legend in Fresno and another bizarre chapter in the chief’s lengthy career.”
Cesar Casamayor is an activist working with an independent group in southwest and southeast Fresno to defeat Dyer. He says they are “getting people registered to vote and disenfranchised communities engaged.” He talked about “working with gangs” and other marginalized groups to register them to vote and stop Dyer from getting elected.
The Fresno-Madera-Tulare-Kings Central Labor Council (CLC) has endorsed Andrew Janz for mayor. Dillon Savory, executive director of the CLC, said that “Andrew Janz is going to make a generational impact on the city of Fresno. His career [in the] District Attorney[’s Office] has given him invaluable qualities that our mayor’s office is so often lacking.
“He is principled, innovative and has undeniable integrity. These qualities alone set Andrew apart from recent mayors and others seeking the office in 2020. But his commitment to serving justice and reversing the trend of systemic poverty in our city has truly separated him from the competition.
“We believe that Fresno is prepared to break the cycle and elect a mayor that is truly working for the people.”
Cranston-Rhodes was emphatic when asked if any progressives will vote for Dyer. “Hell no, no progressive in their right mind would vote for Dyer, any more than they would vote for Donald Trump.”
Mike Rhodes is on the editorial board of the Community Alliance newspaper, a member of the CVPPAC and author of the book Dispatches from the War Zone, about homelessness in Fresno. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.