Fresno County captain spiels himself into investigation


Captain Joe Smith with Fresno County Sheriff’s Office undergoes investigation for questions, comments made at Immanuel High School assembly

Immanuel High School

REEDLEY – What started as an inspirational discussion about faith and background turned into comments and inquiries on student sexual activity.
In February, Captain Joe Smith presented to an auditorium full of students at Immanuel High School and ultimately put himself under investigation. Multiple news media outlets have reported that Smith started his presentation by talking about his background and faith but ultimately took an unexpected turn into sexual territory, asking about things like students’ sexual engagement and bodily insecurities.
“Sheriff John Zanoni has since spoken with Immanuel’s superintendent to gain a better understanding of the situation and learn what concerns there might be related to Captain Smith’s message to students in the audience,” the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office said via statement.
According to the statement, the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office was made aware of Smith’s comments sometime in mid-February. In the statement, the sheriff’s office said it discovered a staff member at Immanuel High personally invited Smith to be a guest speaker at the school.
“The Fresno County Sheriff’s Office takes any and all matters of potential misconduct seriously when brought to our attention,” the sheriff’s office said via statement. “The Sheriff’s Office is now treating this as a personnel matter and will be conducting further investigation into this incident.”
According to ABC30 Action News, the news outlet confirmed that Captain Smith is still working and is not on leave following the circumstance. This was also reported by The Fresno Bee, which also reported that it is unclear when the investigation will conclude since it is internal; and since the matter is internal, the sheriff’s office will not disclose what actions, if any, are taken.
The first few minutes of the speech are inspirational, according to a video of the assembly received by The Fresno Bee. Smith talked about working his way up through the ranks of the sheriff’s office and touched on his role with the Fresno County Sheriff’s Captain Association, which he heads as the association’s president. However, his speech reportedly took a sharp turn when he began asking unexpected questions and comments about student sexual activity.
According to what has been reported, he asked the auditorium full of students if they have ever viewed porn or if they have ever masturbated. When his prompting received no response, he made a single comment of “awkward” before moving on in his discussion. He continued to say that studies reveal that 50% of high school and junior high students—boys, particularly—have done those acts.
After that, he shifted the lens over to the girls in the audience, asking how many of them had looked in the mirror and told themselves that they were not thin or pretty enough, or that their breasts were not large enough. He followed up the questions by explaining that the girls thought about being promiscuous to the opposite sex, and asked the girls in question to raise their hands.
His question prompted laughter from the audience, but no further interaction; so Smith followed up his question with more statistics. He said that studies show 75% of girls did the mentioned actions within the last week, but pointed out that no one raised their hands. Additionally, he noted that no boys raised their hands but said they knew he himself was talking to at least half of the students.
After his unexpected round of questioning, Smith appears to tie the topic of conversation into his religious beliefs. He said that the topics he mentioned pertaining to sexual activity and bodily insecurities were a product of Satan, who is telling the kids that whatever sin they are committing is “OK” to commit. The sins in question include engaging in sexual activity and girls spending money to “fix” their faces up and make bodily modifications—which he said Satan is trying to tell them is “OK.”
Smith followed up his talk of studies and religious topics by sympathizing with the students, according to the reports. He told students that he does not understand their current day struggles and that things were different when he was growing up; however, he also told them that he understands sin. To the students, he said God gives people the ability to take accountability and that could come from teachers, who pour their hearts and soul into students because everyone was a teenager once.
According to the reports on the video, he told students that they aren’t at Immanuel High School by choice, but because their parents did not want them in public school. He said some of the students are just getting through their schooling and “probably chilling during worship” so his words don’t have any meaning to them. However, he followed that up by saying that one day, his words might mean something to them.
He also spoke of his own troubles growing up but said his life became “pretty amazing” later on. He encouraged students to find a trusted mentor that they could have personal, deep conversations with, even if that “someone” is their parent. At the end of his presentation, he told students that this assembly was not his first time speaking at the school and that he had spoken to a smaller group of students before.
According to The Fresno Bee, the video is dated for Feb. 7 and appears to have been recorded by the school because the school’s logo is visible in the recording.
Both Immanuel High School and Kings Canyon Unified School District school district were contacted for further information and comment, but neither responded to the Mid Valley Times as of press time.