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A Fresno law enforcement officer, who was an avowed local leader of the Proud Boys until recently, must be removed and an independent investigation into bigoted extremism in the department must be conducted, a letter sent to the Fresno police chief and other elected officials states.

Rick Fitzgerald, a veteran member of the Fresno Police Department, has taken part in Proud Boy demonstrations and encouraged others to get involved with far-right groups.

The Fresno Police Department should not give cover to white nationalism or violent vigilantism within its ranks. Officers who associate with the Proud Boys and other hateful and violent groups erode public trust in law-enforcement, endangering officers and residents and deepening the divide between the police and communities of color.

“The fact that an officer who was once a local leader of the Proud Boys, and now runs a similar group, is also an officer in the Fresno Police Department is alarming,” said Arusha Gordon, associate director of the James Byrd Jr. Center to Stop Hate at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “Communities of color represent a high percentage of Fresno’s population, and they need law enforcement officers who are approachable and understand the surrounding community.  The police department must take immediate and definitive actions to fight white supremacy and the glorification of violence in its ranks, and to protect the community they are meant to serve.”

Fresno’s new police chief has an opportunity and a responsibility to root out white nationalism from the department and address a dangerous affront to the community. Fresno Police Department policy requires that disciplinary actions be taken when a member’s off-duty conduct could affect their ability to perform their official duties. Fitzgerald has violated a number of policies and the department’s code of ethics.

Read the letter here.

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About the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law – The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination. The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice for all, particularly in the areas of voting rights, criminal justice, fair housing and community development, economic justice, educational opportunities, and hate crimes.  For more information, please visit https://lawyerscommittee.org.

 

About the James Byrd Jr. Center to Stop Hate at the Lawyers’ Committee – The James Byrd Jr. Center to Stop Hate, at the Lawyers’ Committee, supports communities and individuals targeted for hate and challenges white supremacy by using creative legal advocacy, disrupting systems that enable hate, and educating the general public and policy makers. The Byrd Center’s resource and reporting hotline for hate incidents, 1-844-9-NO-HATE (1-844-966-4283), connects people and organizations combating hate with the resources and support they need. For more information please visit: https://www.lawyerscommittee.org/project/stop-hate-project/