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Listen to this and more in-depth storytelling by subscribing to The California Report Magazine podcast. He had been called to testify in a case that, once again, portrayed Fresno not as the fifth-largest city in the state with forward-thinking institutions but a backwater of corruption a century and a quarter deep. Dyer wasn't just any witness. He strode into the downtown courthouse wearing a crisp dark-blue uniform with four gold chief's stars popping out from the collar. He was in his late 50s, but his neck, chest and arms still bulged from decades of lifting weights.

His ature mustache, now gray, was set off by a head completely shaven. His year tenure as chief had made him one of the longest-serving leaders of a big-city police department in modern California history. He had remained the chief by escaping scandal time and again — from front- revelations that he had been investigated for sex with a minor to the bizarre case of one of his high-ranking officers and good friends turning up dead in front of Dyer's home under mysterious circumstances.

The case before the federal court now raised questions so troubling — about his administration of the police department, about his supervision of his right-hand man — that Dyer's conduct itself might have been on trial. His second-in-command, Keith Foster, had been charged as the kingpin of his own drug-trafficking organization. The two men had spent their careers side by side as Foster followed Dyer in every promotion. His office was the only one Dyer passed every day on the way to his own.

Foster's arrest on charges of conspiring to distribute heroin, marijuana and oxycodone had surprised even jaded City Hall watchers who had seen the FBI in the s arrest dozens of local developers and politicians in a lengthy probe dubbed Operation Rezone. But federal authorities accusing a top official in a major city of running a drug ring was different. Strangely, Dyer hadn't been called as a witness for the prosecution. He was there on behalf of Foster's defense.

When one of the prosecutors asked him to explain how he felt when he learned of Foster's arrest, he described emotions — shock, hurt and a sense of betrayal — in a flat tone that belied such feelings. Over and over, he repeated that Foster had always had his full trust, right up to the day the deputy chief was hit with a seven-count federal indictment after he was pulled over by federal agents as he left his nephew's house. As prosecutors continued their questioning of Dyer, they might have delved into why the police chief had missed or chosen to ignore flagrant s of trouble.

But prosecutors never asked the chief about Foster's finances, which had long ago spiraled out of control. He'd lost his house to foreclosure. He'd been hit with an IRS lien and his wages had been garnished after repeated failures to pay alimony and child support. All the while, according to his ex-wife, he lived a "lavish lifestyle," complete with furs, jewelry and expensive clothing. They didn't ask Dyer why he maintained his trust in Foster even as the deputy chief was accused on two occasions of spousal and child abuse.

Neither did prosecutors ask about accusations from two women that Foster had sexually harassed and sexually assaulted them. All of this information was readily available in court documents open to the public. The only noteworthy testimony elicited by the feds from Dyer had to do with Foster's main line of defense: that he was working on the city's heroin problem and that's why he had repeated contacts with a major heroin dealer.

Dyer told the jury that if Foster was working in such a capacity, he never produced a report on his findings. And that was pretty much all the duress the police chief of Fresno faced. As he walked out of the federal courthouse into the sunshine, no probing questions came at him from the local media either. One TV station described it as a "difficult day" for Dyer that "left him reeling" because of the disappointment he felt at seeing his former deputy chief on trial. Another broadcast a segment in which Dyer explained that "whether the allegations turn out to be true or not, the fact is, this investigation occurred, and Keith was arrested, and as a result I felt a sense of betrayal.

Nobody asked him why it took federal agents to catch a man that Dyer himself saw every day, a man who, according to a co-conspirator, had been trafficking drugs for seven years. Two years later, Dyer is still the chief. And within the department, he says, "Keith Foster's not on anybody's mind.

In Fresno, Jerry Dyer seems to be everywhere: church services, neighborhood barbecues, in full uniform at a Snoop Dogg concert. He can be seen smiling down from billboards reminding Fresnans to drive safely. He appeared in uniform on a national TV ad for home-security company ADT, saying the company may have saved a Fresno woman. He even has his own bobblehead.

Dyer, the year-old son of a Fresno police officer, has amassed the kind of behind-the-scenes power that few police chiefs achieve. Dyer touts a laundry list of accomplishments, from falling crime rates to a reduction in traffic fatalities during his tenure. In Fresno politics, Dyer seems to be beyond criticism. No, Jerry Dyer is not a typical big-city police chief. Then again, Fresno is not a typical big city.

The Central Pacific Railroad Co. It was incorporated 13 years later and soon grew into an agricultural powerhouse. The figure who casts the longest shadow on Fresno today is undoubtedly Hank Morton, the high-water mark of corrupt police chiefs in a town with no shortage of them. During Prohibition, federal agents considered Fresno County the wettest in the nation, and the local police ran the booze.

Replacing Chief Ray Wallace, who was sentenced to prison in for using his office to amass 1, acres of land, Morton quickly took control of the area's brothels, marrying Fresno's top madam. He consolidated power and avoided prosecution using a vast intelligence apparatus inside the Police Department dedicated to gathering blackmail material on political leaders.

After Morton's retirement, three separate federal organized crime task forces investigated the Fresno police, leading to a reform period in the department that lasted for two decades. Jerry Dyer was born at the height of Morton's reign, in May , and rose to department leadership under Winchester.

Dyer ed the force on May 1, , just two days before his 20th birthday. His sister, Diane, also became a cop, and served on the Fresno force until Being a cop was in his blood, but he wasn't content to remain a patrol officer. His appointment as chief was, perhaps, inevitable.

His first major step was a two-year stint as public information officer, from to The name recognition he earned from frequent TV appearances helped him launch the defining project of his pre-chief years, the Skywatch helicopter program. He raised private donations to buy the department its first helicopters.

There was one other key piece of Dyer's rise, something that might not be expected to influence a career in government service: his identity as a born-again Christian. He's a frequent guest at many Fresno-area churches, and is often spotted at prayer breakfasts and other public religious gatherings. In Dyer's telling, the story goes like this: In his 20s, he began drinking heavily, cheating on his wife and breaking police department rules which rules, he won't say, but he does acknowledge being the subject of internal affairs probes while a beat cop.

In , he told a crowd that as a young man he was "dishonest, egotistical, proud, arrogant and disobedient. He had a revelation at the age of 32, when a friend suggested he go to church. In what Dyer sees as a from on high, the pastor spoke about the two problems plaguing his life: alcohol and adultery. He said he attended services the next two Sundays, and on the third Sunday, he experienced a rebirth, turning himself over to God and pledging to change his ways. He has an exact date for his spiritual awakening: Sept. Department leadership quickly noticed his newfound commitment to God — and, stemming from that, his commitment to doing the right thing and working to help others.

He rose quickly through the ranks and was named chief just under 10 years later. Dyer has used his faith as cover to protect him from potentially damaging stories from his pre-religious past. Fresno's then-city manager, Dan Hobbs, announced Dyer's appointment on July 18, Four days later, a front- story in the Fresno Bee proclaimed: "Cops twice probed allegations Dyer had affair with girl, Dyer reportedly had sex with a year-old girl when he was a year-old officer in The accusation was investigated shortly after it was alleged to have occurred, and again in response to a citizen complaint after Dyer became department spokesman in The Bee article was based on interviews with unnamed police sources who were privy to the investigations, as well as family members of the alleged victim, although the alleged victim herself would not confirm or deny the allegations.

Contacted for this article, she declined to comment. Dyer refused to deny the story, instead relying on his born-again image to excuse his past behavior. My wife's forgiven me. This department's forgiven me and looked into a lot of things in my past. Nearly 18 years later, even with the wave of powerful men felled by the MeToo movement, no reporter or city leader has publicly asked him about it since the original article was published.

And he still has not publicly denied the allegations. The chief was reportedly considering firing Moralez for lying. The shooting was ultimately ruled a suicide. Dyer relied on his religiosity to build faith among his own officers, as well. In a department-wide memo, Dyer apologized for unspecified offensive comments he made, and he pledged to improve his performance at home, at work and at church. As part of his penance, he told his officers, "I will view teaching Sunday school as an opportunity to help and serve others and not as an obligation.

Institutional racism has long plagued Fresno. A person born just 10 miles away, in wealthy Northeast Fresno, has a life expectancy 20 years longer than a person born in the Dyer himself is not immune to the racism endemic in the city. In , two deputy chiefs, Robert Nevarez and Sharon Shaffer, sued Dyer personally, alleging he had created a hostile work environment in the Fresno Police Department.

The lawsuit asserted that the reference to Chia Pets was a racial remark referring to stereotypes about African-Americans' hair. The voice crackled through the courtroom speaker with the characteristic pops and hisses of a recorded phone call. Not right now, at my cost now they'll say about a rack for the best. We're talking about some China white though, you know what I mean? Hey meet me Friday and we'll, and we, we gonna talk. It was in some ways a typical conversation between two drug dealers, complete with coded language — "ticket" meaning price, "a rack" meaning a thousand, "China white" referring to high-grade heroin — and an admonition not to go into detail on the phone.

Foster, they said, had gone into business with one nephew to sell marijuana. Finally, he had agreed to purchase heroin for a female friend of his and then tried to buy it from a young man he had ly mentored in a gang-violence prevention program. And Dyer certainly knew about the history of troubling allegations. There was the wife of a captain who had accused Foster of sexual battery at a concert.

The child abuse claims his department had investigated and rejected, although a doctor had laid blame at Foster. And there were the money problems. Yes, the sexual battery and child abuse allegations were investigated by the department and rejected. Dyer made no mention of any of this when asked under oath if Foster ever had disciplinary problems. The chief was not entirely unscathed by the Foster saga. In the end, the year-old Foster was sentenced to four years in federal prison. In January last year, he surrendered himself to U. A week after his arrest, Foster was allowed to retire from the department.

In an from prison, Foster maintained his innocence. To this day, Dyer has not said if the department investigated past cases that may have been compromised by Foster's involvement.

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