Fresno County Sheriff's Office

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Template:Infobox Law enforcement agency

The Sheriff's Office of Fresno County, officially the Fresno County Sheriff's Office (FSO), is an American law enforcement agency that serves Fresno County, California.

The Fresno County Sheriff's Office provides general-service law enforcement to unincorporated areas of Fresno County, serving as the equivalent of the county police for unincorporated areas of the county, as well as incorporated cities within the county who have contracted with the agency for law-enforcement services (known as "contract cities").

The Sheriff's Office also holds primary jurisdiction over facilities operated by Fresno County, such as local parks and county government buildings; provides bailiff service for the Superior Court of Fresno County; operates the county jail system; and provides services, such as crime laboratories & homicide investigations, to smaller law enforcement agencies within the county.

Symbol of the Fresno County Sheriff's Department on the side of this patrol car includes the Great Seal of the State of California, 2014

General Description

The Sheriff's Office executes warrants of arrest when issued by judges or magistrates. An order for the commitment of a defendant by the court is directed to the Sheriff, who must detain the defendant until the defendant is legally discharged. If the defendant escapes, the Sheriff is empowered to take all necessary steps to apprehend them.


Rank Insignia
Sheriff 4 Gold Stars.svg
Undersheriff 3 Gold Stars.svg
Assistant Sheriff 2 Gold Stars.svg
Sheriff's Captain Captain insignia gold.svg
Sheriff's Lieutenant US-O1 insignia.svg
Sheriff's Sergeant 35px
Deputy Sheriff

General Duties

The Sheriff's Office:

  • Executes all processes and orders of the court addressed to the Sheriff
  • Executes writs of attachment and safely keeps all defendant's property not exempt from execution
  • In some civil actions, levies and seizes defendant property liable to execution, real and personal, and sells it at auction to satisfy judgments
  • Keeps and manages the county jail and confines in the jail—males and females separately—persons who have been:
    • Committed by criminal process and detained for trial
    • Convicted of crimes and held under sentence
    • Detained as witnesses
    • Held under civil process or an order imposing contempt punishment

Under the county budget law, the Sheriff submits a yearly statement of estimated receipts and expenditures of the office to the county auditor. Prior to 1952, the Fresno County Sheriff could keep fees paid for service of civil papers and warrants—and could keep any remainder of a flat rate received per prisoner in the jail. This was changed; now the Sheriff turns all monies over to the county general fund and receives a flat salary determined by the Board of Supervisors.

Fallen Deputies

Since the establishment of the Fresno County Sheriff's Office, 16 members have died in the line of duty. [1]

Deputy End of Watch Details
Deputy Sheriff Joe D. Price
Wednesday, March 13, 1907
Constable A. B. Chamness
Saturday, September 22, 1917
Vehicular Assault
Deputy Constable Frederick James Smartt
Friday, August 16, 1918
Motorcycle Accident
Constable George W. Boyle
Tuesday, November 18, 1924
Deputy Sheriff John J. O'Leary
Tuesday, March 31, 1931
Duty-Related Illness
Deputy Sheriff William Harry Collins
Thursday, February 25, 1937
Automobile Accident
Sheriff's Sergeant Richard Thomas Bain
Thursday, November 16, 1961
Automobile Accident
Constable Iver William Johanson
Friday, December 15, 1961
Heart Attack
Constable Richard Phillip Valdez
Friday, January 26, 1962
Automobile Accident
Deputy Sheriff Harold Hurst
Wednesday, October 2, 1968
Struck By Train
Deputy Sheriff David G. Graves
Friday, November 5, 1982
Vehicular Assault
Deputy Sheriff Jeffrey Sean Isaac
Monday, September 8, 1997
Automobile Accident
Deputy Sheriff Erik Jon Telen
Tuesday, August 21, 2001
Deputy Sheriff Dennis Earl Phelps
Monday, May 20, 2002
Deputy Sheriff Joshua Clyde Lancaster
Thursday, May 29, 2003
Vehicle Pursuit
Deputy Sheriff Joel Brian Wahlenmaier
Thursday, February 25, 2010

Patrol Areas

The Sheriff's Office Patrol and Support Bureau have dedicated deputy sheriffs and professional staff ready to serve the many communities throughout the County of Fresno. The members of the Sheriff's Office are expected to liaison with citizens in the community, businesses in the community and service organizations. The Fresno County Sheriff's Office provides Patrol services for its more than 6,000 square miles. In 1983, patrol services were decentralized and divided into four Patrol areas. Each area is commanded by a lieutenant who supervises field services from a substation located in each of the areas. [2]

Area 1

Area 1 is an extensive patrol area covering more than 2,400 sqmi of western Fresno County. This vast area borders five different counties (Kings County to the south; Monterey and San Benito Counties to the west; and Merced and Madera Counties to the north). While this area is predominantly used for agricultural farming, 63 miles of I-5 and the Coastal Mountain range are also located within Area 1. Many livestock ranches and milk dairies are located in this area, and oil wells are also abundant in the southern portion of this area. Area 1 has within its boundaries the incorporated cities of San Joaquin, Coalinga, Huron, Kerman, Mendota, and Firebaugh. The Fresno County Sheriff's Office is the contracted law enforcement agency for the City of San Joaquin. In addition to the incorporated cities, Area 1 has a number of unincorporated communities, including Tranquillity, Biola, Five Points, Helm, Three Rocks, Cantua Creek, and Dos Palos. [3]

Area 2

Area 2 consists of the unincorporated portions of metropolitan Fresno County. FSO serves the rural outlying homes and farms to the base of the foothills north and to the rural areas east, south, and west of the city of Fresno.

The Area serves several communities within the boundaries of American Avenue to the Madera County line and Chateau Fresno to McCall Avenue. Some of the communities served are Calwa, Malaga, Mayfair, Sunnyside, Fig Garden and Tarpey. Each community is unique and FSO continually strives to deliver customized service to each of them whenever possible. This area is home of the Sheriff's Office Patrol Training Unit. There are four Patrol Training Officers assigned to the Area and all entry-level field deputies are assigned here during their training phase. Five detectives are assigned to Area 2/4 and handle armed robbery and property crime investigations. One detective is assigned to the Indian Gaming Grant position and assists patrol and detective with investigations in or near the affected gaming areas of Table Mountain Rancheria and Big Sandy Rancheria. [4]

Area 3

Area 3 comprises half of the Southwest Field Services Bureau and encompasses 559 sqmi. It provides law enforcement services for about 150,000 residents in the southern Fresno County area.There are several established communities within the geographic boundaries of Area 3. These communities are the incorporated cities of Orange Cove, Reedly, Sanger, Parlier, Selma, Fowler, and Kingsburg. There are also the unincorporated communities of Centerville, Minkler, Navelencia, Wahtoke, Del Rey, Raisin City, Easton, Caruthers, Laton, Riverdale, and Lanare. Within these communities, there are about 28 schools, with a population of approximately 10,000+ students. The residents in this area are currently serviced by: 1 Lieutenant, 6 Patrol Sergeants, 29 Deputy Sheriffs, 1 Robbery/Property Detective Sergeant, 3 Robbery/Property Crime Detectives, 1 Ag Theft Detective Sergeant, 8 Ag Theft Detectives, 3 Crime Prevention Community Service Officers, 1 Vehicle Abatement Community Service Officer. Additionally the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office Boating Enforcement Unit is based out of Area 3. Area 3 is a diverse section of Fresno County with some portions being small incorporated cities which are separated by vast sections of rural farmland and waterways. The citizens that reside inside of the geographic boundaries of Area 3 are provided with 24-hour law enforcement service by the dedicated men and women who work at the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office assigned to the Area 3 substation. [5]

Area 4

Area 4 comprises the eastern mountain region of Fresno County and covers approximately 2,734 sqmi. Within the area there are several small-populated rural communities, numerous lakes, rivers, and recreation areas. Area 4 is both a summer and winter recreational area for local, national, and international tourism. Fresno Sheriff's Office provides unique services to this area that include units such as: Search and Rescue, Boating/Dive, and the Off-Highway Vehicle (snowmobiles/ATV/dirt bikes). Area 4's northeastern substation is located in Auberry on Auberry Road. Area 4's southeastern substation is located in Squaw Valley on Hwy 180. [6]

Uniform Field Reserves (Law Enforcement Bureau)

The Fresno County Sheriff's Law Enforcement Bureau consists of more than 50 reserve patrol deputies assigned to each of the above-mentioned patrol areas throughout the County. The Law Enforcement Bureau has a command structure that parallels the regular department, which provides the opportunity for reserve deputies to hold ranks including sergeant, lieutenant and captain.

Many law enforcement reserves are preparing for a paid career in law enforcement; others make a career of being volunteers. Some reserves have served as unpaid law enforcement deputies for more than 20 years.

Sheriff's law enforcement reserve deputies are assigned to areas throughout Fresno County. They work in solo patrol units, providing all levels of law enforcement from the day-to-day duties of a patrol deputy to assisting in major emergencies. Additionally, they provide crowd and traffic control and community events and at crime scenes. Because of the diversity of Fresno county, law enforcement reserves can be found responding to radio calls ranging from domestic violence to armed robbery in high crime urban areas one day, or in the next day tracking down and destroying a marijuana field in the county's immense back country. Reserve deputies also participate in special Gold Star operations. Of course, a reserve deputy is apt to spend some shifts writing reports, issuing traffic tickets and providing cover for another deputy. [7]

Specialty Units

Ag Task Force

The Fresno County Sheriff’s Office Agricultural Crimes Task-Force, more commonly referred to as the “Ag Task-Force,” investigates all cases with a nexus to the agricultural community, as well as metal thefts occurring in Fresno County. The unit’s primary objective is to suppress criminal activity by means of proactive enforcement, thorough investigations, and crime prevention/education in the Ag community and metal recycling yards.

Since 1949 (with the exception of 2001), Fresno County was the number one county in the nation in regards to agribusiness, with nearly $6.5 billion in production generated by local agriculture in the year 2013 alone. In 2014, Fresno dropped to the number three position which was largely due to the previous drought conditions the valley had experienced. One out of every five jobs in the Central Valley is currently related to agriculture and there are over 400 different commodities grown throughout Fresno County. Because of this, the Fresno County Sheriff's Office places a high value on the investigation of Ag crimes and the prosecution of criminals who target the Ag community.

The Ag Task-Force was created in September 1999 and has been in full effect ever since. Currently, the Ag Task-Force consists of a Sheriff's Sergeant, six Sheriff's Detectives, and a CHP Officer/Investigator. Additionally, a Deputy District Attorney is assigned to the unit to handle all cases from the initial case filing through final sentencing. (A concept known as “vertical prosecution,” which ensures the cases make it all the way through the judicial system without passing through different hands.) The Ag Task-Force participates in a number of organizations, some of which include A.C.T.I.O.N. (Agricultural Crime, Technology, Information, and Organizational Network), the California Rural Crime Prevention Task-Force (C.R.C.P.T.), the Fresno County Farm Bureau, and the Fresno County Ag Roundtable. A.C.T.I.O.N. is an association of thirteen central California counties that regularly share information, support and technology to help combat agricultural crime throughout the San Joaquin Valley. A portion of the Fresno County Sheriff's Office Ag task Force unit is grant-funded through A.C.T.I.O.N. [8]

Air Support Unit

The FSO Air Support Unit provides air support to ground based units engaged in all facets of law enforcement activities serving the citizens of Fresno County. The Air Support Unit may provide, when resources are available, air support to other law enforcement agencies in the scope of mutual aid during life threatening, emergency situations.

The Air Support Unit was created in October 1996, with the flight crews beginning patrol operations on May 1, 1997. Both units are housed at the Fresno Yosemite International Airport. Two McDonnell Douglas 500E helicopters, known as Eagle-1 and Eagle-2, patrol 7 days a week, 365 days a year. The McDonnell Douglas 500E helicopter has a turbine engine that has a maximum speed of 175 mph with a maximum ceiling of 16,000 feet. The helicopter has four seats and always carries a pilot and a flight officer who are each sworn deputies. Both of the MD500E units are equipped with a Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) system, color video camera, a 50-million candle-power "Nightsun" search light, a 350-channel radio, and a computer system. [9]

Boating Enforcement Unit

The Fresno County Sheriff's Office Boating Safety Unit has the primary responsibility for the enforcement of laws and regulations relating to the operation of watercraft within the County of Fresno. The unit patrols the areas of Shaver Lake, Pine Flat Lake, Huntington Lake and the Kings River. The unit enforces these provisions by means of patrol vessel, vehicle, and foot patrol.

The boating unit currently has eight patrol vessels and two personal watercraft that are used for patrol and rescue operations. The patrol vessels are manufactured by Design Concepts and are 21 feet in length and constructed of aluminum. They are equipped with a Chevrolet 5.7-lt Mercury I/O. The propellers vary in size, due to the elevation of the lakes. The vessels are equipped with navigation radar, depth finder and communication radio, and rescue equipment. The vessels can accommodate up to eight passengers, with room in the center of the cockpit for a medical board.

The unit's goal is to educate the public on water safety. The boating unit utilizes "The Aqua Smart Program" which is one of the most current and up to date water safety programs in the state. The State department of boating and waterways developed the program, and it has been in use since 1992. The water safety program can be presented to children and young adults in their classrooms (grades K-8). The unit is also available to give presentations that would include Boating Laws and water safety pertaining to all age groups. The Boating units patrol function is to promote a safe boating experience for all involved. While on patrol, the deputies also conduct inspections on vessels for required equipment and registration. [10]

Dive Team

The Fresno County Sheriff's Office Dive Team was first started in the 1960s and was brought about due to the need for underwater recovery in and around the numerous rivers and lakes in the Fresno County area. Today, the Fresno County Sheriff's Office Dive Team consists of 12 members, all of which are full-time Deputy Sheriffs for the Fresno County Sheriff's Office. All Deputies are issued a pager and are on 24-hour call availability. The dive team has regular formal training four times a year, in order to maintain optimal operational proficiency. The Team is trained to perform deep water recovery, swift water recovery, underwater retrieval, and underwater evidence recovery. [11]

Explosive Ordinance Disposal (E.O.D.)

The Sheriff's Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Team currently consists of one Lieutenant, one Sergeant, one Deputy IV, and one K-9. Existing vacancies due to promotions and retirements are in the process of being filled. With the use of continuous and realistic training, state-of-the-art equipment, and most importantly, committed personnel, this team is dedicated to providing professional explosive disposal and render-safe services to the citizens of Fresno County and surrounding counties upon request.

In 1971, a large explosive device was detonated in the Fresno County Courthouse during normal business hours. A subsequent explosive event at the Fresno City Hall marked the emerging need for trained investigators as well as trained explosive technicians to handle such incidents. A post-blast investigation training class was brought to Fresno by members of ATF, military personnel from Fresno’s 144th Air National Guard Wing, and the 49th Ordnance Detachment from Fort Ord, California. Approximately 20 students attended that initial training including members of the Sheriff's Office. In 1975, the Sheriff’s Office began sending EOD personnel to the FBI/U.S. Army training at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama, to be trained as Hazardous Device Explosive Technicians.

In the 1980s, the EOD team began the challenging effort to procure necessary equipment including a response vehicle, a Hurd’s custom made bomb trailer, Golden x-ray capabilities, and a bomb suit. In those days, a modified and cutdown 12-gauge shotgun served as a remote bomb disruptive tool. Many, many pipe bombs and other devices succumbed to this crudely crafted disrupter, but it worked time and time again. It is now a Sheriff’s Office museum piece as more sophisticated equipment has taken its place. Also during this time, an ATF approved explosive storage facility was obtained near the foothill community of Auberry. In 1992, the Sheriff's EOD Team was disbanded with the exception of one technician who acted as the Sheriff’s Office liaison to the Fresno Police Department’s bomb squad, who took over all explosive responsibilities within Fresno County, including control and utilzation of the explosive storage facility near Auberry.

In late December 1999, just days before the January 1st, 2000 Millennium celebrations, the Auberry storage site was burglarized with a large amount of high explosives and blasting detonators being stolen. The theft made national news with concerns that the explosives may have been liberated by those bent on anarchy during the upcoming national events. Within days of the burglary, the Fresno Sheriff's Office EOD Team was reactivated with former members being pressed back into service. Also, upon the discovery of the burglary, the Sheriff’s Office immediately formed a Special Investigative Detail to work around the clock in an attempt to determine who was responsible for the theft, and what their intentions were for their newly procured explosive materials. The Sheriff's Office investigation was assisted by Federal, State and other local law enforcement agencies from throughout the country. Within days, four young Auberry area suspects had been identified and arrested. What was believed to be all of the stolen explosives were recovered in nearby Madera County hidden under the floor of an abandoned mountain cabin. Subsequently, the suspects plead guilty to criminal charges and were sentenced to local jail time, absent one suspect who had been killed in a vehicle accident while awaiting trial.

With this infamous event concluded, the Sheriff’s Office EOD Team has continued to forge ahead providing its dedicated services to the County of Fresno. Obtaining asset forfeiture and various grant funding including Homeland Security grant funds, a new Freightliner response vehicle was acquired, along with new digital x-ray equipment, two Remotec robots and a large variety of other explosive device intervention equipment. The Sheriff's Office EOD Team has partnered with the Clovis Police Department Bomb Squad to expand services and maintain a full force ready to respond to large and mulitple events within the region. Now, 13 years since its reactivation on January 3, 2000, the Sheriff’s EOD Team has handled in excess of 500 explosive-related incidents. [12]


In order to investigate and combat auto theft in Fresno County, the Sheriff's Office has assigned three detectives to the Help Eliminate Auto Theft (H.E.A.T.) Task Force. These detectives not only handle follow up investigations, they are part of a pro-active team that identifies auto thieves and the locations stolen automobiles are taken. The California Highway Patrol (CHP), the Fresno County Sheriff's Office (FCSO), the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) and the Clovis Police Department (CPD) have teamed up to combat vehicle theft in Fresno County. Personnel currently dedicated to Fresno H.E.A.T. include one (1) CHP Lieutenant Commander, one (1) CHP Sergeant/Supervisor, ten (10) investigators/detectives from the CHP, FCSO, NICB, and CPD. Many allied agencies, programs, and support personnel from the various participating agencies work hard in a variety of different capacities to make it a successful operation.

Fresno H.E.A.T. proactively identifies, investigates, and arrests vehicle thieves. This has been a proven and effective method for success. Vehicle theft, like other crimes, will never be completely extinguished. However, it is law enforcement's responsibility to ensure this illegal and destructive crime is not allowed to flourish in the community. [13]

Honor Guard

The Sheriff's Honor Guard is a team of hard-working, dedicated Deputies and Correctional Officers that have given, and will continue to give, their greatest effort to ensure that the Sheriff's Office is represented with pride, dignity, and professionalism.

The team practices, drills and polishes with one goal in mind: Honor. By wearing the Honor Guard uniform, each member accepts the commitment to excellence, and views their mission as sacred duty. That commitment is continually evidenced by the team's impeccable appearance and dedication to precision. The Honor Guard takes part in many ceremonies throughout the year. The team is most often called upon to present the colors at various ceremonies and meetings. The team considers it a privilege to treat flag of the United States of America with the respect and dignity it deserves.

The team also attends several funerals and memorial services throughout the state of California. Their most revered duty is to render honor and respect to fallen officers, and each member understands the significance of their role in paying tribute. Professionalism, discipline, precision, and empathy are without compromise at memorial services, which often provide a lasting memory of a beloved warrior for the loved ones left behind.

Sixteen Fresno County Deputy Sheriffs and Constables have given their lives in the line of duty. Their names are etched forever on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington D.C., the California Peace Officers Memorial in Sacramento, and the Fresno County Peace Officers Memorial in Courthouse Park. Inevitably, The Honor Guard will again assemble to honor yet another fallen member of the law enforcement community who sacrificed all in the service and protection of fellow man. The Honor Guard prepares for that day in the hope that it never arrives. [14]

K9 Unit

Since 1976, the Fresno County Sheriff's Office has utilized canines as a tool to better protect and serve the citizens of Fresno County. The trained Sheriff's canine performs a vital and necessary service to the community. In an age where personal attacks upon officers are commonplace, the Sheriff's canine answers an increasing need in law enforcement.

The Canine Unit is assigned to the Patrol Division. There are nine patrol canine teams, three of which are cross-trained for explosive detection. The unit currently deploys canines of the German Shepherd, czech shepherd, and Belgian Malinois breed. Canines are generally purchased from various professional and reputable kennels throughout the state, however there have been rare circumstances where the agency has purchased from private citizens, as well as other law enforcement agencies.

Each Sheriff's canine, along with their assigned handler, must attend a five week basic handler course that is certified under the California Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) criteria, prior to actual deployment in the field. In addition to the basic handler course, those selected as dual-purpose explosive detection canines must attend an additional 200 hours of training specific to odor detection work. The explosive detection training includes the recognition and detection of various chemicals that can be combined to form an explosive device. Explosive detection canines are imprinted on these odors early on in their training. They are then subjected to ongoing odor detection training every month to keep them accurate and current with training standards. [15]


The creation of the Multi-Agency Gang Enforcement Consortium (MAGEC) immediately created greater cooperation and networking among the participating agencies. The men and women of MAGEC believe that the multi-agency and multi-level approach to combat gang crime is the most comprehensive and effective method in existence. The reduction of gang crime is evident throughout Fresno County.

On Jan. 3, 1994, the Fresno County Sheriff's Office formally established their first gang enforcement team, titled "Combined Resources Against Street Hoodlums" (CRASH) with the mission of eradicating criminal gang activity. It was supported by a four-pronged approach, consisting of prosecution, enforcement, education, and prevention. One Sheriff's lieutenant commanded the team, with two sheriff's sergeants who supervised a six-person uniformed team and a six-person plain-clothes team of gang enforcement detectives.

This approach ultimately became a resourceful guide in accommodating the public's needs and law enforcement's ability to navigate through common and uncommon challenges. CRASH sought and received a grant titled "Combined Rural Resources Undermining Street Hoodlums" (CRRUSH). The grant provided three additional deputy sheriffs, two Fresno County Probation Officers, a deputy district attorney juvenile prosecutor and investigator to the team. The juvenile prosecutor would aid in streamlining the vertical prosecution goal. One deputy was assigned to teach the gang resistance education and training curriculum in specific school districts with gang-affiliated students on probation. The unit collectively identified the community's needs and priorities and went to work.

A CRASH detective was assigned to the FBI's fugitive apprehension team and a narcotic dog was added to the team. The dedicated team of CRASH completely overhauled their gang tracking system to meet all future legal challenges associated to such enforcement. The departments proactive advances were recognized, which ultimately earned the Fresno County Sheriff's Office the selection as an administrative node for "Cal Gang," a statewide database developed exclusively for gangs. Today this system is being developed into a nationwide gang database titled Gang Net.

Current statewide gang training was provided to enforcement members. A statewide networking base was also emphasized and established. The Fresno County jail classification staff networked closely with CRASH. They had the immediate 7-day, 24-hour ability to identify and document gang members via their gang validation tracking inquiry. Their current and extensive historical knowledge of gang members and gang activity became a major investment in combating the criminal element. To date they have distinguished themselves as a primary resource on many gang investigations.

The sharing of information was an established priority for the sheriff's office. Therefore the CRASH team attended local and state gang meetings. This collaboration with allied agencies increased critical information flow. CRASH team members were called by allied agencies to share the CRASH concepts and standards and to conduct gang presentations. The development of CRASH and its organizational protocol became a supplementing model for new gang task forces.

As a complement to this networking priority, a local Gang Information Bulletin (GIB) was created and provided internally for the benefit of the field staff and all office members. The GIB ultimately became a gang information resource for neighboring law enforcement counties, the California Department of Corrections and federal enforcement agencies. At its peak, this bulletin was mailed nationwide to more than 300 peace officers and agencies. Through time, the GIB was discontinued as the "instant access" world of information was developed. Today group email lists are used to send information throughout the state.

In 1996, then-Sheriff Steve Magarian chaired a meeting, inviting then-District Attorney Ed Hunt, all Fresno county police chiefs, supervising law enforcement agents from the California Highway Patrol, Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement, Federal Bureau of Investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration, Internal Revenue Service, State Parole, Fresno County Probation supervisors, the California Department of Corrections and the Immigration & Naturalization Service. Sheriff Magarian proposed this meeting with a recommendation and plan to establish one unique law enforcement body to expand the war against criminal gang activity. Endorsements were received and planning commenced for the task force. Committees were developed to work out resources, communications, staffing and various related logistics. A chief deputy district attorney initially was selected as a neutral body to command MAGEC. A governing board, consisting of department heads, established policy and direction. It was determined that all CRASH personnel would be absorbed into MAGEC. In November 1997, the newly formed cooperative, MAGEC, was formally endorsed and honored by California State Governor Pete Wilson. On Dec. 1, 1997, MAGEC went into operation with 30 law enforcement agencies coming together—the largest long-term consolidation in law enforcement history.

MAGEC was structured with a vertical prosecution team lead by a senior deputy district attorney, a metropolitan team commanded by a Fresno police lieutenant, and a rural team commanded by a Fresno sheriff's lieutenant. Each team would have a mix of participating agency personnel.

The Fresno County Sheriff's Office and the Fresno Police Department contributed the largest number of personnel. An office site for MAGEC personnel was chosen in metropolitan Fresno. The creation of MAGEC immediately created greater cooperation and networking among the participating agencies. The Forensic Laboratory of the Fresno County Sheriff's Office agreed to receive, analyze, and maintain custody of all controlled substances seized and submitted by members of MAGEC. This afforded members of MAGEC the ability to receive an official analysis of their evidence within one working day. MAGEC personnel also received orientation training for the integrated ballistics identification system (IBIS). The database provides an evidentiary analysis of casings and bullets collected during investigations and comparison options associated to existing and unidentified evidence data. The Fresno County Sheriff's Office manages all three county detention facilities. Prior policy of the Sheriff's Office was to charge agencies booking fees for each arrest booked into the jail. Because of the imposed fees many agencies in Fresno County adopted an arrest policy dictating the issuance of citations for misdemeanor suspects in the field, in lieu of physical detention, when appropriate. Seeing how this may impede the increased enforcement tactics instituted by MAGEC, the Sheriff's Office agreed to wave booking fees on all arrests by MAGEC team members.

MAGEC applied for and received a three-year federal grant titled "Enforcement, Prevention, Prosecution, Intervention, and Counseling" (EPPIC). Two deputy sheriffs and two juvenile probation officers were assigned to gang prosecution and enforcement. One deputy sheriff was in charge of gang resistance and education within designated schools. One deputy district attorney for prosecution and one deputy district attorney investigator complemented this enforcement body. The California School of Professional Psychology supported the EPPIC body by providing counseling and guidance for at-risk, gang-involved youth. A Fresno County Sheriff's community services officer was in charge of a mentoring program established in providing mentors, for support services. The CSO was also in charge of an anti-graffiti program for designated cities. The Grant has since expired due to the down-turn in the economy; however, the MAGEC Unit will continue to focus on prevention whenever possible, understanding that a multi-level approach is more effective than simply enforcement. In June 1999, a captain from the California Highway Patrol assumed the command position of MAGEC. The respected agency delivered a vast level of experience and provided a new channel of reputable training resources. This complemented and increased the successful momentum of MAGEC throughout California. The men and women of MAGEC believe that the multi-agency and multi-level approach to combat gang crime is the most comprehensive and effective method in existence. The reduction of gang crime is evident throughout Fresno County. Currently, a CHP captain leads the MAGEC Unit. During the last few years, different tactics have been deployed to combat gang violence. One of the most successful tools used to date are the gang injunctions. These injunctions allow law enforcement greater leverage in combating gangs. With injunctions in place gang members are no longer allowed to participate in gangs, nor are they allowed to wear gang clothing and group up in public. This has reduced gangs' ability to intimidate the public they prey on. [16]

Mounted Patrol Unit

The Mounted Patrol Unit typically deploys into Fresno County areas in which it is easier and faster to move a horse than a patrol car. These assignments include county neighborhoods, parks and large events with large numbers of people. The Mounted Patrol Unit also assists during civil unrest incidents, searches for missing people, dignitary protection and honor guard details.

The Mounted Patrol Unit serves a very special function as an ambassador of the Sheriff's Office to the citizens of Fresno County. Unit members and their horses visit schools, public functions and neighborhood meetings to talk about public safety and visit with the community.

The Sheriff's Office established the Mounted Patrol Unit in March 1997 with horses privately owned by Deputies and Reserve Deputies. In 1999 the unit expanded with the purchase of the first four horses owned by the County of Fresno. The unit currently deploys with a combination of horses owned by riders and horses owned by Fresno County. Mounted Patrol horses and riders must complete extensive training and testing to prepare them for Patrol deployment. Riders maintain proficiency in conducting law enforcement operations from horseback, while the horses are specially trained to accept sights and sounds they may encounter. [17]

Off-Road Safety Team

The Sheriff's Off-Road Safety (SOS) Team provides targeted off-highway vehicle recreation areas and through education and enforcement of OHV enthusiasts with safe and enjoyable OHV recreational opportunities. Fresno County offers year-round recreational riding opportunities off-highway and over-snow. The Fresno County Sheriff's Office offers a new year round Off-Road Enforcement Team specializing in off-road law enforcement, search and rescue missions, medical assistance, and public education throughout Fresno County.

The SOS Team has the ability to resolve many off-road related problems that are otherwise difficult for Deputies to deal with. Specialized equipment allows Deputies to rapidly move from on-road to off-road situations to locate, contact and bring closure to many problems. The Fresno County Sheriff's Office uses motorcycles, four wheel drive trucks, ATVs and snowmobiles for the SOS Team. [18]

Search and Rescue (S.A.R.)

The Fresno County Sheriff's Office Search and Rescue team is responsible for searching, rescuing or recovering people lost, injured or killed while outdoors in Fresno County. Approximately 2,000 square miles of Fresno County is home to the High Sierras, and every year this unit conducts dozens of Search and Rescue missions in that area. Unit members are deployed on missions 24 hours a day in all kinds of adverse conditions and weather. Unit members are highly trained and are expected to be self-sufficient for multiple days at a time. These members are trained in wilderness first aid, land navigation, swiftwater rescue, mantracking and technical rope rescue. Other training specific to the alpine winter environment consists of snow shelter building, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobile operation and snowcat operation. The Fresno County Sheriff's Office has a proud history of Search and Rescue service within Fresno County. The program is staffed by both Sheriff's deputies and community volunteers. Four different volunteer teams work within Search and Rescue:

-Mountaineer Unit: SAR unit whose interest and expertise are steep angle and alpine activities. This team also participates also includes winter and summer ground searches as well as white water rescue. Open to persons 18 years and older.

-Mounted Posse: Equestrian unit open to all persons 18 years or older. Volunteers must provide their own equine and transportation.

-Jeep Rescue Unit: The Jeep Squadron is open to all persons 18 years or older. Volunteers must provide their own 4x4 vehicle.

-Air Squadron: The Air Squadron is open to all persons 21 years or older. Volunteers must provide their own airplane and pilot licensing. [19]


The Fresno County Sheriff's Search and Rescue Mountaineering Team was formed as an auxiliary unit of the Fresno County Sheriff's Office in 1982. The Team is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization of diversified volunteers, formed to augment the Sheriff's Office during search and rescue operations in Fresno County and throughout the state of California.

Team members are trained in a variety of search and rescue disciplines including: orienteering, tracking, wilderness / winter survival, first aid / CPR, swift water and high angle rescue, helicopter safety, search techniques and search management. These skills facilitate the member's ability to respond to a variety of urban and wilderness emergencies.

In the simplest of terms, team members are better known as "Ground Pounders." When there is a reported missing subject or party, under the direction of the Sheriff's Office, members respond to the area and look for them. Members use specific training and current search techniques, as well as the information they obtain and know about the missing subject(s), to increase the probability of finding them. The majority of the searches are off trail, non-technical hiking that involves a moderate level of physical activity and exertion.

Team members are expected to maintain a minimum physical fitness level to ensure they would be able to hike several miles and still be able to conduct search activities without being a hindrance to the operation. Annual physical fitness testing is required and includes a fitness hike and skills test. Members provide all of the training required to be prepared to respond to a search mission. [20]

Mounted Posse

The Fresno County Sheriff's Office Mounted Posse provides Search and Rescue services in the back country environment of rural Fresno County. Members of this unit are volunteers who own their own horses and mules, and they use their own equipment to care for and transport the animals when needed. A large portion of eastern Fresno County lies in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and stock animals have historically been used when travel here is necessary. To this day, the Fresno County Sheriff's Office continues to use the services of these highly training individuals when conducting SAR operations in the rural mountains of Fresno County.

Using horses and mules to both ride and pack equipment, this unit travels into the mountains and establishes camps and resupply posts for other Search and Rescue teams. Posse members are trained in Search and rescue techniques, wilderness first aid, navigation, and mantracking. [21]

Jeep Rescue Unit

The Fresno County Sheriff's Jeep Rescue Unit augments and supports the Sheriff's Office by responding to, and performing duties related to search and rescue, fire, flood and other such disasters. The unit maintains a group of qualified, trained and mission-ready volunteers to be on-call and respond to any situation, in any weather, and at any time, when requested by the Sheriff's Office.

In 1965 the Sheriff's Office sought to reduce its response time for searches within the county's boundaries in the back country of the Sierra National Forest by accessing the four-wheel drive trails by vehicle. The Sheriff requested help from the only four-wheel drive club in the area, at the time, the Four-Wheel Drive Club of Fresno. Six members initially "volunteered" their vehicles, their time, and most importantly, their experience and knowledge of the local four-wheel drive trails. This inaugural group of volunteers in 1965, with the founding approval of the Sheriff, established the Fresno County Sheriff's Jeep Rescue Unit. Through the many years the unit has developed into one of the finest off highway vehicles teams in the state. All members are first aid certified. Some are first responder, EMT, and Paramedic trained. Members of the unit are registered as Disaster Service Workers with the California Emergency Management Agency and respond to mutual aid requests from other counties when requested of the Sheriff's Office. Team members are trained in map & compass and GPS navigation, man-tracking, and first aid. Members are sworn volunteers dedicated to serving the public through their volunteer membership with the unit. [22]

Volunteer Air Squadron

The Fresno County Sheriff's Air Squadron is a non-profit organization of volunteer pilots and aviation technicians offering their skills and aircraft to assist the Fresno County Sheriff in providing public safety and law enforcement. The Air Squadron was formed in 1939 primarily as a search and rescue (SAR) unit and has continued this tradition. Today the Air Squadron activities have expanded to include surveillance, observation and anti-terrorist patrols. Fresno County covers an area of more than 6,000 square miles located near the center of the State of California. The Coastal Range foothills are the western edge of the County at over 4,000 feet. The eastern edge is located in the Sierra Mountains with peaks over 14,000 feet. The Valley is about 300 feet in elevation where the majority of the near 1 million in population reside. East to west the County is 150 miles wide, north to south varies in distance from 30 to 90 miles due to the boot like shape. The City of Fresno is located near the center of the County and is the sixth largest City in California. There are 15 cities in the County and several more communities that require ongoing law enforcement and emergency services that is provided by County Government.

Agriculture is the major industry of Fresno County and is the most productive agricultural region in the Country. The expansive land mass and open areas associated with large agriculture operation combined with metropolitan development make law enforcement and emergency services a major undertaking. The assistance of a volunteer air squadron provides assistance not otherwise affordable with current day budget constraints. Currently there are 35 volunteer members and a fleet of 19 privately owned single-engine aircraft. All of the pilot time and use of private aircraft is volunteer time and donated. The Sheriff provides fuel for requested mission flights only.

Fresno Air Squadron is a member of Western States Association of Sheriff's Air Squadrons and participates in joint exercises to maintain proficiency in pilot and observation skills. In the event of a regional disaster or emergency the air squadrons of the Western States Association, in coordination with their law enforcement liaison, would mobilize to assist the citizens in need. [23]

S.W.A.T. & Crisis Negotiation Team

The SWAT Team is an elite tactical unit in the Sheriff's Office. SWAT deputies are trained to perform high-risk operations that fall outside of the abilities of regular deputies. Team members' duties include but are not limited to: performing hostage rescues and counter-terrorism operations; serving high-risk arrest and search warrants; subduing barricaded suspects; and engaging heavily armed criminals. The SWAT Team is equipped with specialized weaponry and equipment, in order to bring high-risk and/or critical incidents to a successful conclusion, and reduce the risk of injury or loss of life to citizens, peace officers, and suspects.

The SWAT Team is available to local, regional, state and federal law enforcement agencies upon request, and approval of the Sheriff or his/her designated representative. The Crisis Negotiations Team is composed of highly trained negotiators, who through persuasion, communication and rapport-building, will minimize the need for force, complement the mission of the SWAT Team, and bring the existing crisis to a successful resolution. This team has been specifically trained and equipped to diffuse critical incidents through the use of verbal communication.

The SWAT Team was established in 1975. The team was composed of two sergeants and eight deputies. The original equipment consisted of weapons confiscated from property and evidence, and training was one day per month.

In 2002, the SWAT Team began to integrate with the CNT. The teams are unique to themselves but complement one another toward resolution of critical incidents that necessitate their specialty. The current SWAT and CNT consists 1 Lieutenant, 4 SWAT Sergeants, 2 CNT Sergeants, 16 SWAT Deputies, and 8 CNT Deputies. The SWAT Team trains twice monthly 10 hours a day in many different disciplines and is on-call 24 hours/7 days a week.

Members of the CNT train once a month for 10 hours and are on-call 24 hours a day. The team utilizes a tactical command post that also utilizes tactical dispatchers. [24]

See also




External links

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