Fresno police chief resigns after investigation into alleged affair with officer's wife

Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderrama announces a gun safety program offering free locks starting Tuesday morning, during a press conference Monday morning, June 28, 2021 in Fresno.
Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderrama resigned after a lengthy investigation into an alleged affair with an officer's wife. (Eric Paul Zamora / TNS)

Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderrama, who had been under investigation since February following allegations he had an affair with an officer’s wife, resigned Tuesday morning.

City officials announced that the investigation had been completed and that Balderrama had submitted his resignation, effective July 25, which they have accepted. The city will begin a national search to find his replacement.

“We do believe this resignation by the chief is in the best interest of the community, the police department, and our employees, as well as for Chief Balderrama and the families involved, given the intense media scrutiny that this matter has received at the local, state and federal levels,” Mayor Jerry Dyer said Tuesday at a news conference. “In this particular case, it would have been even more difficult for Chief Balderrama to be able to maintain that trust of his officers and the community.”

Balderrama informed the mayor and city manager in February that “an allegation would likely be made against him related to an inappropriate off-duty relationship he was involved in,” according to a written statement released by the city.

Balderrama was placed on administrative leave, and City Atty. Andrew Janz said the city hired an outside attorney to handle the investigation "to avoid any appearance of bias or impropriety."

In a statement issued through the city, Balderrama said that serving as Fresno police chief "has truly been the privilege of a lifetime."

"I want to thank the administration for giving me this opportunity. The men and women of the Fresno Police Department are second to none," he said in the statement. “The people of Fresno are beautiful, diverse, and very supportive of their police department. Even through my most difficult trials you have been kind, forgiving, and uplifting. Thank you for being there for me.”

Read more: Fresno police chief placed on leave over alleged affair with officer's wife

The news had ignited what city officials called a “media circus” and speculation about the alleged affair. Among the allegations made against the former chief was that he abused his position of authority to impede the career trajectory of the officer whose wife he was purportedly involved with. City manager Georgeanne White disputed that allegation Tuesday. The city has not named the officer.

“While I cannot get into the specifics of the investigation, I am able to state that this allegation was not sustained, and evidence to the contrary was presented,” White said. “I saw time after time that got repeated and listed as a fact, and talked about as a fact. And that was not true. Evidence presented, not true.”

Dyer, who is a former Fresno police chief, praised Balderrama. The outgoing chief, who served for about three years, curbed violent crime, Dyer said, advanced the technology used by the department and recruited more than 300 officers and dispatchers to the agency.

“I think he did some remarkable things as a police chief in Fresno, and we should not forget about that, as we recognize the indiscretion that he had, involving himself with a police officer's wife. That is not excusable," Dyer said. "But we also don't want to forget some of the good things that he did.”

Balderrama began his career in Oklahoma City at age 22. He served in the Oklahoma City Police Department for 22 years, according to his biography page. He was sworn in as Fresno’s police chief in January 2021.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.