Clovis Mayor Flores Voices Concerns with Sacramento’s Bill 481

Clovis City Council (Photo J.T. Gomez Clovis Roundup)

In the latest city council meeting for the City of Clovis, a heated Mayor Jose Flores voiced concerns of the introduction of new policies through Bill 481 to police forces throughout California. 

According to the bill, the Clovis Police Department, as well as other police departments throughout California will now have to request the use of military grade equipment from the city it serves. “They have tied the hands of our officers, and that’s evil. Because, what hands have they tied of the criminal? They’ve loosened them…It’s just ridiculous,” said Mayor Flores. 

The military equipment in question from Chief of Police Curt Fleming and the Clovis Police Department were the MRAP and Bearcat vehicles that CPD owns and operates. Because of the new ordinance, Chief Fleming and the police department must come back each year before council and ask permission for continued use of these vehicles as well as other budgetary concerns. 

“For legislators in Sacramento to make these erroneous policies and laws that every police agency has to go through is short sighted and favors the crooks and not officers and not the victim. Our legislators in Sacramento are legislating for the suspects or the criminals,” Flores proclaimed to the council. He maintained that by approving the use of the military equipment, the city was not “militarizing” but protecting their police force. Flores’ claims that there are weapons in the public hands including explosives, and high powered rifles, a claim he backed with the shootings of Officers Javier Bejar and Deputy Sheriff Joel Wahlenmeier in 2010. The weapons, like the high powered rifle that shot and killed these two officers of the law are “Out there and can defeat any vest, any of our officers are wearing,” according to Flores. “We need comparable equipment and we need protection for our officers.”

Flores was not the only one on the city council who questioned the effectiveness of the bill however, as Councilman Bob Whalen called it a “hurdle” that California has brought onto the local government. Mayor Pro-Tem Lynne Ashbeck echoed the sentiment by calling the bill an “example of a bill that is solving the wrong problem.” She cited the officers in Clovis as the “best-trained officers around” and being capable of using the military equipment without the council’s permission. She questioned whether or not there would be some flexibility for officers to “do their job”. Councilman Drew Bessinger stated, “It’s difficult to look into the heart of the people who wrote this, but I would have to concur that this is not supporting the police, it’s not supporting the community.” 

Chief Fleming maintained his position in his request to adopt the Military Equipment Use Policy, and announced to the council that he would “not be shy” if he were summoned to come back before council. In discussion with Chief Fleming, Councilman Mouanoutoua replied that while he wanted to abide by the intent of the law, he also wanted the police department to be able to work as quickly as possible. In questions asked about approval for price and broken equipment, Chief Fleming responded to Councilman Mouanoutoua that in order to keep inventory consistent the police force can replace broken equipment without approval according to the bill. City Attorney Scott Cross mentioned that in anticipation of specific items, separate approval items could be added in the annual budget. 

Flores was not finished voicing his concerns towards Sacramento however. “We have all of this violence in the street, and now cities cannot give the proper equipment to their officers? It’s just unreal. It’s a dystopian world we’re living in and California has to change.” 

The retired Police Chief and Fresno County Sheriff’s Office Captain told the council, “This is my bread and butter and the ‘abolish the police’ movement is alive and well in Sacramento, and we have got to stop it.”

“How dare they tell us that we must limit our police, how dare they? And they’ve done it and we can’t do anything about it.”

In his biggest exclamation of the night, the Mayor exclaimed, “This is backwards legislation, and this governor is an idiot for signing these bills!” 

JT is a recent college grad with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication. He is mainly interested in sports and entertainment but covers a wide array of subjects. He currently writes for the Fresno State Baseball Dugout Club. JT looks forward to continuing his career at the Clovis Roundup and is excited to be working closely with a community that is very proud of its people.