Community policing, an important tool
Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune File Photo
Madera Police Officer Ryan Vasquez and his canine partner Officer Uno greet attendees during 2017 National Night Out at the Madera District Fairgrounds this summer.
Combating crime and making Madera a safer place to live is the obligation of the Madera Police Department.
The department strives to cultivate support from residents of this community, so officers connect with the people they serve.
“We work diligently to build a bridge that allows the community to see who we are as public servants and the value that we bring to our community,” said Chief of Police Steve Frazier.
Community outreach programs, block parties, National Night Out, town hall meetings and other events provide an opportunity for the public to interact with the police force and become a part of making Madera a safer place to live.
Twice a year, the police department offers a 13-week Citizen Academy program that meets once a week from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday.
“It is the capstone of our community outreach,” he said. “We serve dinner, we break bread together and get to know these people and they get to know us.”
The program has been beneficial in building trust between participants and officers. People who trust the police are more likely to report suspicious activities to help to make the community safer. Open to people who live or work in Madera and are 18 years or older, the class accepts 26 applicants per session. Those involved must attend 10 of the 13 classes to complete the program. The department also runs a dozen programs aimed at kids as young as third, fourth and fifth grade, said Frazier. The object is to educate the kids on the hazards of gang involvement and good citizenship.
The department has an Explorer Post for girls and boys ages 14-21. Under the leadership of Det. Matt Sauceda, the program is similar to the Boy and Girl scouts. The program is funded by the department and through fundraising projects.
During the recent Madera District Fair, the police and sheriff’s departments’ explorer posts directed traffic in the parking lots. There are several occasions, such as the Pomegranate Festival and the July 4th events that the posts work parking.
The department staffs a summer camp for 100 plus kids to teach them skills and values to help them stay out of trouble when school isn’t in session, he said.
“Our goal is to be as involved in the community as possible,” Frazier said. “We want to get to know people and for people to get to know us.”
As head of the police force, it is his responsibility to manage the limited resources provided his department to protect Madera’s ever growing population, which is approaching 65,000 people. Fully staffed, the department is comprised of 71 sworn positions and 20 support staff.
It is troubling to him that the instances of excessive force across the country played out on the nightly news.
These tragedies make the job harder and more dangerous for law enforcement officers.
Frazier believes if the public and the police officers get to know each other as people, the chance of that happening here are lessened.
Patrol cars in Madera are equipped with dash-cams. These have been very effective in settling disputes between officers and the public. They are in the testing phase with officer body-cams. The major expense for a program like this is the cloud-base storage of the data, Frazier said.
Frazier came to Madera from Colorado at 18 and has lived here since. He attended the police academy at Fresno City College and joined the department in 1986. He earned a bachelor and master degrees from University of Phoenix and Command College. He also attended an 11-week course at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia.
The opportunity to take the FBI course has about a three-year waiting list, but it was the best training experience of his career, he said.
He and his wife Lori have been married for 29 years and have two adult children, Brandon, 24, and Britney, 20.