Expect some changes in the Community Alliance newspaper over the next couple of months. There are several events that are pushing these changes, which we hope will improve the paper and get it into the hands of more readers.
Last month, we increased our circulation to 11,000 copies a month and will probably continue to increase circulation as we put more newsstands in southeast and southwest Fresno. Increasing circulation is not something that too many newspapers are talking about these days. We think our growth is an indication of increasing community support and the need for a paper that promotes progressive values.
The Community Alliance is also making an effort to reach a younger audience. You will notice, in coming months, increased coverage of arts, music and entertainment. We realize that to survive as a viable long-term project, we need to bring younger voices into the pages of the Community Alliance newspaper.
That is why we have made a strategic decision to expand our coverage to include more information of interest to a younger audience. In addition to arts, music and entertainment, this coverage will include local restaurant reviews, book reviews and some design changes.
Last month, we ran a photo spread on the Martin Luther King Day march. One of the photos was of Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer. The caption mentioned what Dyer had said in a speech in front of City Hall that he was “God’s minister of justice as described in the Bible.” I was rather surprised by Dyer’s statement and sent a request to the police department’s public relations office for clarification. I wrote, “I thought Dyer was the City of Fresno Police Chief and I was not aware of this new appointment. Any details you can give regarding this statement would be appreciated.”
I never in a million years thought that the Fresno Police Department would respond to my smart-ass request. I was wrong. Jerry Dyer himself not only responded but also cited biblical scripture that explains his reasoning. He also went on with a long, but unnecessary, defense of his free speech rights. I was not questioning his right to free speech; I just wanted to know what on earth would possess him to make such a statement.
Here is what Chief Dyer had to say:
Yes I am the appointed police chief for the city of Fresno but also a Minister of Justice. All law enforcement officers are described in Romans Chapter 13 as God’s Ministers of Justice. That is what I referred to. According to my attorney I have the right under the constitution to exercise my freedom of speech as is the case with all citizens as long as I do not use my position of authority and restrict a person[’]s freedom when doing so. The individuals who attend this event are not under my control and are free to leave at any time therefore there is no violation of Church and State. I would not say this if the audience were confined and not free to leave. My comments do not violate any of the 3 prongs used by the courts to determine a violation of Church and State. Someone may not like what I said just as I do not always like what is said about me in certain media outlets but I have learned to accept it and to be tolerant of other people[’]s comments and opinions. That is what I love about America. Thank you for allowing me to respond. Chief Dyer
Let’s look at Romans Chapter 13 and see if we can shed some light on the chief’s thinking. It turns out there are several versions of the Bible, but they say more or less the same thing. This is a section of Romans 13 from the New International Version of the Bible, which seems to be consistent with what Dyer is referring to: “For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.”
Could Dyer’s belief that he is “God’s minister of justice as described in the Bible” have an impact within the culture of the Fresno Police Department? If this thinking has an impact in the department, then are there issues regarding the separation of church and state that we should be concerned about?
I’m interested to know what our readers think about this issue. We will print whatever letters we get on the subject in the April issue of the Community Alliance newspaper. Please send us your comments by March 15 and include your name and contact information.
An interesting side note to the Fresno Police Department (FPD) story above is that Jeff Cardinale, the FPD’s public information officer, is being laid off. My experience with Cardinale was that he relentlessly promoted the interests of the police department. He was always able to provide journalists with fresh and new ways to put the FPD in a good light. For journalists that told the story the FPD wanted the community to hear, he was extremely helpful. To those of us who were more critical of police actions, he was able to block access and could be extraordinarily slow in providing information.
Last year, the American Civil Liberties Union had to file a lawsuit against the FPD to simply get the names of officers involved in instances of excessive force and shootings. You can read more about the outcome of that lawsuit on page 3.
The FPD has had a powerful propaganda machine to tell its side of the story and its ability to do so has significantly affected most people’s opinion about the department. Cardinale was making $96,261 a year—his salary alone was more than the entire budget of the Community Alliance newspaper, which was $52,000 in 2010.
We look forward to the day when our budget is as much as one employee who spins the news in one department at the City of Fresno. You can help us achieve that goal by subscribing or donating to this vital alternative/independent newspaper.