Homeless man's death: Fullerton approves probe by police watchdog
The Fullerton City Council late Tuesday gave the go-ahead for an independent review of the city's embattled Police Department and to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of a homeless man after a violent encounter with six officers.
Michael Gennaco, who oversees Los Angeles County's Office of Independent Review and scrutinizes the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's actions, said the two contracts approved by the Fullerton council allow him to review Kelly Thomas' death and conduct a separate extensive review of department policies and procedures.
The council's decision came after a meeting dominated by more than two hours of public comments criticizing how the Police Department and the city handled the July 5 altercation that resulted in Thomas' death and its aftermath. The meeting grew so heated that three council members briefly walked out.
Thomas' death is under criminal investigation by the FBI and the Orange County district attorney's office.
Gennaco, a former federal civil rights prosecutor, said he would begin the policy examination immediately but probably would have to wait on the Thomas investigation until after the district attorney's office completes its criminal investigation. He said he would produce public reports on both issues and provide regular updates.
Gennaco estimated that his services would cost the city $50,000 to $70,000.
Councilman Bruce Whitaker said he supported the general review of the department but not the contract for investigating Thomas' death, expressing concern about the speed of the undertaking of the probe. He said he favored bringing that contract back later.
Mayor F. Richard Jones said he supported both contracts, adding: "We want to get things moving."
-- Richard Winton
Photo: A crowd gathers in front of the Fullerton police station Sunday to protest the death of Kelly Thomas, a homeless man who died after an altercation with six officers.
Credit: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times