Fullerton City Council Dismisses Citizens Review Board

OIR_group.jpg
Hours into a marathon meeting of Fullerton's city council, the critical issue of police oversight in the wake of the July 2011 Kelly Thomas killing finally came to a vote. The 4-1 vote in favor of hiring the Los Angeles-based Office of Independent Review (OIR) for auditing services came as no surprise, given the strong pitch made earlier in the meeting by Police Chief Dan Hughes.

The only alternative option to be considered aside from the $60,000 annual contract with OIR for a two-year trial period was a continued evaluation, not execution, of other oversight models, including a civilian review board and related costs.

From the onset of Chief Hughes presentation, it was clear what type of oversight was favored. "In February of 2013, the city council heard a citizens group that was called the Police Oversight Proposal Committee who presented an external model of civilian oversight of the police department," Hughes said of POPC's push for a civilian review board.

"As your Police Chief...I just do not support this type of model for our community or our police department."

He then went on to outline the independent audit model provided by OIR that included "percentage" reviews of completed internal investigations by the Fullerton police, public annual reports to the city council and "real time reviews" of critical incidents. Chief Hughes considered the proposed yearly presentations to the council by OIR as essentially his "citizen oversight."

If the Office of Independent Review sounds familiar to Fullerton residents, it's because the Los Angeles-based firm headed by attorney Michael Gennaco has done business here before. Last summer, he presented a 53-page report into the killing of Thomas. "Officers found a way of transforming a casual encounter into an incident resulting in death," was his finessed characterization of the bludgeoning while criticizing a "culture of complacency" in the Fullerton Police Department.

Among the recommendations Gennaco made to the city at that time was for an independent model of oversight. More than one year later, that conveniently came in the form of his very own firm.

Following Hughes' presentation, speakers lined up both in support and opposition of the chief's recommendation. Since the actual OIR contract itself was not included in the agenda packet for the meeting, Jane Rands, a founding member of the POPC, said she had many outstanding questions. "Will all complaints be reviewed? Why should the police have a say in what the independent oversight or auditor will review? Has the council reviewed the contract that's being proposed?" she asked.

Councilwoman Jan Flory was more than comfortable with Chief Hughes' recommendation. "I believe that Mr. Gennaco would be independent," she said. Mayor Bruce Whitaker cast a more critical eye. "I think that this misses the mark at least in terms of a truly independent model of oversight," he said of the OIR contract before casting the lone vote against it. "I would like to see more citizen insight into what's happening."

"I'm not surprised, but absolutely disgusted," POPC member Matthew Leslie tells the Weekly after the 4-1 vote. "It's obvious to me the council majority didn't seriously take into consideration what we proposed." The publisher of the Fullerton Rag blog that has been critical of OIR said he still sees a vital role for his resident group in the aftermath of last night's meeting.

"We'll look into forming our own commission not affiliated with city and do whatever we can to monitor the situation including handling complaints," he said. "We will still keep working for this. If it takes change of elected officials to do it, that's something we'll focus on as well."

Follow Gabriel San Román on Twitter @dpalabraz

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7 comments
tongue_twister_for_t
tongue_twister_for_t topcommenter

"Last summer, he presented a 53-page report into the killing of Thomas. "Officers found a way of transforming a casual encounter into an incident resulting in death," was his finessed characterization of the bludgeoning while criticizing a "culture of complacency" in the Fullerton Police Department".

Am I reading that right that the cops want the complacent incidents to turn into violent acts? 

18usc241
18usc241 topcommenter

And finally a question to the Fullerton police chief - you rattled off a list of law enforcement agencies OIR had worked with - I was almost asleep by then (four hours sitting there) but I think you failed to mention the Anaheim police department. Yes?

18usc241
18usc241 topcommenter

It was also a stunning disgrace that this incredibly important agenda item was item 19 on the agenda - I had to wait over 4 hours to speak my peace. Even people that had come to speak on this topic couldn 't stay long enough. Shame on the city leaders of Fullerton city hall.

18usc241
18usc241 topcommenter

As long as the cities of Fullerton, Anaheim, Garden Grove and others in Orange County California understand the legal consequences to committing capital hate crimes and /or their cover up, keep on keeping on.

God bless HD quality video tape.

carlashworth
carlashworth

how many fullerton tax dollars did Fullerton's city council pay to Gennaco to change two letters for the city of fullerton. Fullerton Police Officers

Ramos and Ciccinelli beat a homeless, malnourished, schizophrenic to death in full view of the public at Fullerton's downtown transit center. In 2008, fullerton Police ofticer Rincon was caught molesting female detainees in his squad car, suspicious jail suicide, perjury, theft and so on. what did gennaco conclude from all this? Fullerton PD not thugs, only smug "complacent". Thousands of tax dollars to substitute "th" for "sm". Ask Gennaco about the Matrice Richardson case. Gennaco found L.A. sheriff's deputies did notrhing wrong when they released psychotic Matrice ibnto the wilderness. her bones were found a year later in a ravine. I guess gennaco and same L.A. sheriff's deputies never heard of a 5150?

rrodarte
rrodarte

I'll help elect Jane Rands to Council. Ms. Rands makes more sense than the defenders of social malaise can doublespeak in a wasted session of city time. Everyone needs to look at the paradigm of power at the city level, in each city and community, and ask where the reality of each human life is considered. Quick fact check - nothing beyond constructs of misplaced faith in bad actions drives the "social fabric" that  obscures the very real pain, loss of life, loss of futures and most of all the disintegration and loss of cohesion in a threadbare excuse for leadership that is our corporatist model of "democracy", a state of economic domination by charlatans to any clear eyes. Disgusted? Insomuch as power is force and eschews a human condition it is more that the wind has been knocked out of a respectable study for a peaceful community by the powers that be profiting in the premeditated and predetermined flicking of the offing. Hang in there with the truth friends, power is its own destroyer and with misplaced momentum as was decided tonight there will be ample proof to that remark.

madebutante
madebutante

Matt & Crew are local heroes! Matt for Mayor!

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