The Fullerton City Council moved item twelve, an update from Chief Hughes about the trial of two former officers acquitted of charges in the death of Kelly Thomas, to the beginning of its meeting agenda tonight. Of the fifty or so members of the public who spoke about the item, nearly a dozen expressed support for civilian oversight of the Fullerton Police Department. Following public comments of the issue, Councilman Bruce Whitaker reminded the audience that he did support a public police commission, and voted against the proposal to hire the Office of Independent Review to provide a lesser model of oversight through outside audits by Michael Gennaco’s OIR.
Councilwoman Jan Flory claimed that the subject was dealt with on two different occasions, and even cited a study session held at the new community center as an example of the council’s consideration of different models of oversight. Readers will recall that the Police Oversight Proposal Committee (POPC) was limited to less than ten minutes to present a model of public oversight following lengthy presentations by the chief of police and Michael Gennaco. Almost no discussion of the proposal took place at that time. There has never been a real public discussion of police oversight by the Fullerton City Council.
Readers will also recall that Ms. Flory was supported by the Fullerton Police Officers Association in the 2012 elections. The FPOA spent tens of thousands of dollars to ensure that they elected a candidate who would privilege their priorities over the interests of the public.
Ms. Flory claimed that the POPC proposal was in conflict with state legislation that protects police officers, and that the council was advised by lawyers that they should not adopt a civilian police commission.
Of course, The Peace Officers Bill of Rights does severely limit the public’s access to information about police misconduct, making real oversight somewhat complicated. But such civilian oversight is certainly not impossible, and is vital to a community where people can be beaten in the streets by the police and be found guilty of nothing by a jury.
Councilwoman Flory ought to take the public’s demands for civilian oversight more seriously. If she thinks state law is standing In the way of it, we will expect her leadership in efforts to change that law. We request that she contact our state legislators on behalf of the people of Fullerton to reform POBR.