OC Register reporters Larry Welborn and Lou Ponsi recently co-authored an interview with Fullerton Police Chief Dan Hughes (“Fullerton chief reflects on Kelly Thomas case,” Nov. 23) about his thoughts on the beating death of Kelly Thomas over two years ago and its effect on his department. Although the authors do ask the Chief about his reactions to the attack by his officers, any follow up questions a respectable reporter would ask are completely missing. Instead, the reader is treated to a succession of mild admissions that the FPD could have handled the situation differently, but that things are much better now. Let’s examine the Chief’s answers to the 13 questions posed by the OC Register’s reporters…
Most striking is the Chief’s opinion that it was only a “small segment of our population that was very loud that lost its trust for (sic) the Police Department,” as if he has any reliable way of measuring how much confidence the people of Fullerton have in a department whose officers needlessly beat a man to death, and now await trial for murder and other crimes. Three city council members were handily recalled by a clear majority in May, 2012, less than a year after Kelly Thomas was killed. Chief Michael Sellers eventually resigned. Not exactly ringing endorsements of the FPD by the public.
Later in the article he is asked whether there was “ever a real danger of disbanding the Fullerton Police Department.” This question should be answered by the reporters themselves, based on information collected from multiple sources. Instead, they rely on Dan Hughes to explain that “It never got to the point where the council ever even voted to get a bid.” He is correct, the vote to pursue a bid from the Orange County Sheriff to provide police services for Fullerton narrowly failed on a 3-2 vote after the Fullerton Police Officers Association filled the city council chambers with their members and supporters to oppose the vote. It could easily be argued that it was the FPOA who were the small but vocal minority who opposed outsourcing their own jobs.
In the November 2012 election the FPOA spent over $ 35,000 supporting city council candidates who could be relied upon to keep the FPD, and even then only one of their chosen, Jan Flory, squeaked by with a 29 vote lead over incumbent Travis Kiger, who had been a strong critic of the department. Clearly, the jury is still out over how much the public fully trusts the Fullerton Police Department.
When asked whether or not the FPD got an “unjustified bad rap” Chief Hughes responds that lies were told about the department, but doesn’t bother to say what lies or who told them. He does acknowledge that the police did not communicate well “about events that happened,” but, again, is not specific about anything at all. He asserts that “we have taken corrective action.” Perhaps he refers to the FPD’s official information site, Fullerton Police News, where we can read all about a police dog’s first drug bust or how to have a safe holiday season.