Fresno Hires New Police Auditor At $74/hr

Fresno hired a new independent police auditor, despite cutting the position last year to save money.

The independent police auditor is supposed to be the police department's watchdog.

The city hired Rick Rasmussen from Salt Lake City to do that.

He'll be part-time for now, but his services don't come cheap.

The new police auditor will earn about $74 hour - to look over the Fresno Police Department's shoulder, and make sure they're conducting their investigations properly.

"Independent review of police forces is something that's sweeping the country, it gives an added level of trust between the community and the officers who are employed in the city," said Rick Rasmussen, a former FBI agent.

Last year, the city left the police auditor position vacant, saving taxpayers about $150,000 a year.

Rasmussen will earn about $77,000 a year, working 20 hours a week.

"His job isn't to actually conduct investigations, his job is to oversee that and to make comment on the investigations that are conducted," said Mark Scott, Fresno City Manager.

Right now, the city can't afford to put more police officers on the streets; city parks look run down, less irrigation and maintenance cutbacks are killing trees and grass; and lights are out all over Fresno as the city struggles to replace stolen copper wire.

But the mayor says this hire, could save the city money in the long run.

"We know that even one complaint that's resolved early instead of moving all the way to litigation can save the city hundreds of thousands, and over time, millions of dollars," said Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin.

In January the city paid a $1.3 million settlement to the family of a man killed by a Fresno police officer, after a federal jury found the officer used excessive force, a price tag the city hopes to avoid in the future.

City leaders also hope Rasmussen's role will deliver something priceless - public confidence.

"It's important to save money when we can, but the objective here is to have people feel confidence that the city of Fresno feels it operates its law enforcement operations properly," said Scott.

Rasmussen will keep his current job in Salt Lake City as administrator of that city's civilian review board.

Fresno officials say Rasmussen will pay for his own travel and lodging expenses while commuting back and forth.

The city will also hire a staff assistant, who will be located at city hall, Monday through Friday, to take in citizen complaints.