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Fullerton police chief not expected to return, mayor says

August 11, 2011 | 12:39 pm

Michael Sellers

Fullerton Mayor F. Richard Jones said Thursday that he does not expect police Chief Michael Sellers, who has gone on medical leave, to return to duty.

The city was notified Wednesday by Sellers’ doctor that the embattled chief would be taking a medical leave of unspecified duration. Capt. Kevin Hamilton, the head of the department’s detective bureau, has been appointed acting chief.  Although the City Council has taken no action yet, Jones said he  anticipated that it would launch a search for a new permanent chief.

Sellers had come under increasing public criticism over his handling of the July 5 death of a homeless man, Kelly Thomas, after an incident involving six Fullerton police officers. Citizens and council members complained that the chief had not been forthcoming enough with information or public statements about the case.

Two of the council members have publicly called for the chief’s resignation. Jones was not one of them, and praised the chief’s 35 years in law enforcement, but added,  “Unfortunately, now we had a [public] perception that he had failed.”

“I don’t think there would be a place for Chief Sellers in the future,” he said.  

Jones said city officials had been “talking about ways to remedy the situation” when they got word of Sellers’ medical leave.

“I thought a different resolution was going to be made, and I found out yesterday that the doctor’s letter supersedes everything,” he said.

Whether or not Sellers returns to duty, city officials said the medical leave precludes the city from firing him. He will continue drawing his full salary, which totals $228,576 with benefits, while on leave.

Fullerton Councilman Bruce Whitaker said Thursday that he had been told Sellers suffered from high blood pressure and signs of stress.


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Photo: Fullerton Police Chief Michael Sellers. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times