Fullerton to hire doctor to verify police chief's medical leave
Fullerton Police Chief Michael Sellers has been granted a second extension to his medical leave and will remain off the job for at least another 60 days, but this time city officials said they will bring in their own physician to examine his claim.
Sellers took the leave in August amid growing questions over his department's oversight of a group of officers involved in a violent altercation with a mentally ill homeless man, who later died.
City Manager Joe Felz said Sellers' doctor requested a 60-day extension to the chief's medical leave. The chief's doctor initially indicated that Sellers had high blood pressure due to stress.
"Under the law, as a law enforcement officer he can take up to 12 months' medical leave," Felz said. The city, however, has retained a physician to review the medical records and make a recommendation to the city, Felz added.
Sellers' leave coincided with the mounting pressure for him to answer questions about the night of July 5, when officers responding to reports of an attempted vehicle break-in confronted Kelly Thomas, a 37-year-old schizophrenic homeless man.
Several council members had called for the chief's resignation.
Since Sellers' leave, the Orange County district attorney's office has charged Officer Manuel Ramos with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter and Officer Jay Cicinelli with involuntary manslaughter and excessive use of force. Both are now on unpaid leave, and another four officers who were present at the Thomas beating scene remain on paid leave.
The department has also been reprimanded by a judge for allowing an officer to return to patrol duty after he was accused of groping women.
Officer Albert Rincon has been placed on leave, and the city has agreed to pay two women about $500,000 in connection with allegations that he groped them. The settlement came after a federal judge hearing the lawsuit reprimanded the city for its oversight of the officer.
Sellers earns $228,576 annually. In his absence, Capt. Kevin Hamilton has become acting chief.
-- Richard Winton
Photo: Fullerton Police Chief Michael Sellers. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times