It has now been exactly two months since the Fullerton City Council held a session to study different proposed models of overseeing the troubled Fullerton Police Department. The March 19 session ended with an acknowledgement by Mayor Bruce Whitaker that the council had not allocated sufficient time for the meeting. Since then, nothing has been placed on the council’s agenda, public or closed session, to further consider how to ensure greater accountability and transparency in the FPD.
July will mark the second anniversary of the death of Kelly Thomas, a homeless man beaten so severly by officers of the Fullerton Police Department that he never regained consciousness and was removed from life support by his family. A civil suit filed by his father, Ron Thomas, has yet to be settled, but a recent settlement in a case of wrongful death against the city of Downey suggests that the people of Fullerton may have a big bill to pay in the future.
In October, 2011 31-year-old Michael Nida was approached by Downey police officers who were seeking a suspect in a nearby armed robbery. For unknown reasons, he bolted from the police, and after a chase and a reported scuffle with officers, the fleeing Mr. Nida was shot to death by a police submachine gun. Mr. Nida was unarmed, and had nothing at all to do with the robbery.
Unlike the Fullerton police officers who beat Kelly Thomas, the Downey police officer who shot Michael Nida was never criminally charged, and yet the city of Downey still paid $4.5 million to his family last week. If the FPD officers caught on tape beating Kelly Thomas into a coma are first found liable for his death in criminal court, one can only imagine what kind of bill Fullerton taxpayers may be in for when the civil suit filed by his father is eventually settled. The first trial could begin as early as next month, and yet neither the Fullerton City Council or the City Manager have seen fit to officially address police oversight in the two months since March’s study session on the subject. Recall that Fullerton has already paid $1 million to the mother of Kelly Thomas in a separate settlement.
What will it take for the Fullerton City Council to act responsibly and adopt a police commission to act in the interest of the people of Fullerton? Does someone else have to be injured or killed before anyone in the city government pays serious attention to establishing real and effective oversight of the Fullerton Police Department?