Matt Leslie

Once again Duane Roberts at the Anaheim Investigator has some news that may be relevant to the quest for civilian oversight of the Fullerton Police Department. Rather than formulate an actual police commission composed of residents of their city, the Anaheim City Council has adopted an amended agreement with the Office of Independent Review (OIR), operated by Michael Gennaco, to review officer involved shootings and other critical incidents, and to provide an annual review of the APD. Mayor Tom Tait supported the measure. Fullerton, of course, already employed Mr. Gennaco’s firm to prepare a report recommending improvements to the Fullerton Police Department following the beating death of Kelly Thomas in 2011. One crucial recommendation was for oversight of the FPD. Although the first “Gennaco Report” was presented last year, Fullerton still has no oversight of its police.

Fullerton Police Dept BW

When the Fullerton City Council heard options about different models of police oversight back in March of this year Chief Hughes expressed his preference for hiring an outside auditor to perform oversight of the FPD, even though the auditor model would only review what the police made available to them rather than allowing the broad oversight an actual citizens’ commission could provide.

Mr. Gennaco also favored hiring an auditor (like himself, for example). The hybrid system described in the OIR’s report requires a full time investigator to audit the police department. This auditor would then meet with a liaison for a police review committee. “Under this model, the auditor works on case specific matters but regularly meets with appointed representatives of the community to report on specific cases and systems issues. In addition, the regular meetings allow the Committee to bring concerns percolating in the community to the monitor for inquiry and review.”

The Anaheim Investigator article notes that in a later communication, Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait “re-affirmed his support for a police oversight committee run by residents.” But with the OIR in charge, the citizens committee might just be in the dark about anything Mr. Gennaco’s auditor didn’t choose to share with them. Though it may sound like a good compromise, it’s really just an expensive way to shut out the public who have a right to know what is going on in their city’s police department. A real police commission composed of city residents would have access to whatever it needed to investigate complaints, subpeona testimony and evidence, and be directly accountible to the community it serves.

Anaheim has thus far chosen to outsource oversight of its police department rather than forming a Police Commission comprised of Anaheim residents. Will Fullerton trust its own residents to oversee our police department, or will the City Council instead try to offload this obligation to a paid consultant? Mayor Bruce Whitaker has indicated support for a commission, and Council Member Jan Flory promised to “Establish an independent Citizens Police Oversight Committee with real powers to quickly investigate complaints against police officers” while running for her seat last November. We expect the Fullerton City Council to work with our community to provide the best model of police oversight possible, and not shift the responsibility elsewhere.