Actions taken by the Fullerton Police Department regarding departmental operations and procedures were the subject of a report to the Fullerton City Council by Acting Police Chief Kevin Hamilton.
In the report, presented at the Dec. 20 council meeting, Hamilton outlined steps taken thus far by the Police Department in the wake of the Kelly Thomas case.
The case occurred July 5 when Thomas, a homeless man who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, had an altercation with officers who had detained him for questioning. Thomas was critically injured during that struggle and died five days later.
Hamilton said among the first steps taken was to “implement formal training for all our personnel on dealing with the homeless and the mentally ill they may encounter in the course of their duties.” Courses included crisis intervention training, and critical issue training on use of force, use of Tasers, and use of digital audio recorders (DARs).
The department has also obtained the services of CSP Victim Assistance Programs in Orange County to provide services to crime victims and those impacted by crime.
Policy changes enacted have included implementation of a new citizen complaint procedure, as well as a strengthening of the language in the department policy manual on the use and random audits of DARs.
Another step taken has been to work with the Los Angeles County Office of Independent Review (OIR) (www.laoir.com) which is conducting a review of police department policies and procedures. The results of the OIR’s review are tentatively slated to be presented to the council in February by Michael Gennaco, chief attorney for the OIR.
The department is also conducting its own internal affairs investigation of the Thomas case, and is assisting the FBI in its investigation into possible civil rights violations in the case.
In addition, the Police Department is serving as a liaison to the Task Force on the Homeless Mentally Ill, which was formed by the City Council in response to the Thomas case to assess services already available to assist the mentally ill homeless, as well as identify additional service needs.
The Task Force will also develop a plan for facilitating access to the services for those in need.
“The Task Force has been coming together every other week to hear the stories of family members whose children suffered mental illness, shelter providers who go out every day to provide a roof over the heads of families in Fullerton, churches and synagogues that feed the hungry, and homeless individuals who are or were on the streets,” said Rusty Kennedy, executive director of the Orange County Human Relations Commission and Task Force chairman.
“By January we will have heard from county mental health professionals, the regional commission seeking to end homelessness by 2020, and private mental health practitioners to finish our education about what exists, as well as hear ideas about what a perfect system would look like,” Kennedy said.
“We will then start to narrow down the ideas to a few things Fullerton could do now especially to help the mentally ill homeless.”
Kennedy said the Task Force hopes to have its recommendations to the City Council in March.
A full copy of Acting Chief Hamilton’s report to council is on the Police Department Update section of city’s website at www.cityoffullerton.com.