LIVE BLOG: Fullerton City Council, January 21


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Tonight’s agenda is a very robust one.  News crews are in attendance and the council chamber is full.  This is the first council meeting since the verdict landed in the case of Kelly Thomas.

In 2011, public comments lasted almost three hours.  Fullerton has taken an interesting approach this evening and scheduled a specific agenda item to cover discussion of the trial.  It’s an interesting move: By agendizing a discussion, I’m guessing the mayor hopes to divert the bulk of comments until after a good chunk of necessary city business has occurred.  I can certainly understand it, but the legality of stifling public speech en masse seems to be legally dubious.  We’ll have to see how discretion is used. **Update, that didn’t happen.  The mayor did an admirable job directing the meeting, in my opinion.  Cheers.**

The monitors in the lobby have been switched off and overflow viewing is being held in the Osborne Auditorium next door in the library.  Uniformed officers are (quietly) stationed in both the council lobby and the library’s auditorium.

Mayor Chaffee has wrapped up his usually monthly charity presentations.  He’s conducted these sessions recognizing volunteers since being elected in June of 2012.  The mayor has moved discussion of the trial to the front of the line, which is a good thing.

Chief Hughes: Will defend his decision to fire the officers involved.  He has personally vowed to assist with the FBI as they continue their investigation.

Mayor Chaffee:  Has hiring changed?

Chief Hughes: Yes, we’ve changed the method we recruit our police officers.  Just last week we graduated 3 officers, which is the first time in 20 years we’ve recruited candidates and sent them through the academy.  We typically recruit officers from other agencies.  We’ve also changed the way we do background investigations.  We’ve had issues with nepotism and ensuring background checks have been thorough.  We’ve hired an outside agency to conduct background investigations who make a recommendation to hire an officer.

Councilwoman Flory: Is it possible the FBI will press charges?

Chief Hughes: Yes.

Mayor Chaffee: How does this parallel Rodney King?

Chief Hughes: I’ll have to refer comparisons to the FBI who were involved in the details.

Mayor: Can the city attorney weigh in on our procedures and how we weigh in?

Attorney Jones: . . . lawyer speak . . . This city council has no decision making role with criminal prosecution decisions.  With regard to employment statuses: POBAR gives police officers certain legal rights and appeal.  The police department makes a determination as to whether certain discipline should apply including determination.  In this case, Chief Hughes decided to fire three officers.  All three officers have decided to appeal.   The next step is for an independent arbiter to review the decision.  He will issue an opinion.  The city council is the final decider with respect to actions of this city and will sit in judgement and either overturn or sustain the actions of the police chief and city manager.  They act as judges and must make their decision without prejudice.  They will make a determination.

After the city council decides, the officers may take their case to court.

(I’m not sure if I got that right regarding all three making an appeal.  That’s big news if I got it right.)

Attorney Jones: It is important that the city council act fairly and impartially.  For that reason, they will remain silent until they have ruled on this case.  Mr Thomas has also brought a civil case and that matter is proceeding through the civil process.  The city has retained outside counsel.  To my knowledge, the next status conference is scheduled for late January.

The city council has retained outside counsel (thanks RToro) to assist with the employment status regarding the employment of the three officers in question.

Flory: What happens if any of us here state an opinion regarding the continued employment of the officers in question?

Jones: If you render an opinion that demonstrates prejudice prior to hearing all the evidence, you’d be disqualified.  If you participate anyway, the court could overturn the council’s decision.  It may also expose the city to additional liability through a wrongful termination claim (violation of due process)

PUBLIC COMMENT

Ron Thomas up first.

RT: Thank you Chief Hughes for his stance regarding these officers.  I’ve spoken to the US Attorney and I spoke to him again this afternoon, but as this is an open investigation they cannot comment.

To the people here this evening, don’t judge us or my family based on the actions this weekend.  We don’t condone or accept it.  We don’t want to interfere with the public.  We don’t condone tagging or violence.  I encourage everyone to support Chief Hughes.

I’d like to encourage everyone to speak in a civil matter and just express how they feel.  Thank you again Chief Hughes and thank you council.

Jane Rands (yea Jane!): We need to have a committee of peers to provide guidance and oversight of our police department.  (Sorry Jane, I can’t type fast enough.)

Public Comment (Cont): (I’ll put the good quotes up.  Apologies to the folks who made the good ones I miss)

Mayor Chaffee: Mr. Jones, can you explain the jury instructions?

Attorney Jones: No, not really. (paraphrased.)

Comment Continued: CWalker– Thank you so much for giving me faith in the police department . . . But I have to say, we had two Fullerton Cops get up on the stand and lie.  Does that make them Brady Cops? . . .  There is a time and a place for everything, and I do need to remind you there was a recall.  I know you can’t give your opinions, but I hope you do the right thing. . . Those three cops that are still on the force?  That’s gross . . . Out with the bad and in with the good.

Sharon: We are not violent, we protect others: Something that law enforcement needs to learn.

SB: We will never accept the verdict of the 12 accomplices who served on the jury.

(This speaker made a very eloquent plea to organize the police department with local schools regarding response to students.  I wish I could have captured it.  Powerful stuff.)

JG: And now for Ramos, who expressed his love for Cholas who will beat a bitch down . . . his comments are disturbing.

(Unknown): What rights did Kelly Thomas have the night they beat him to death? . . . I’m not surprised, but I’m very angry we have to wait longer for justice.

(A little bit of ruckus in the library regarding clapping. )

Matt Leslie: A lot of people are very angry tonight . . . One of the more alarming things to come out of the trial was the testimony of officers who claimed there was no violation of policy.  It is hard for many of us to rectify that contradiction.

(Unknown): I just want people to know that we the people have a lot of power and we have to stand up for what’s right.

STEVE BAXTER: The citizens of Fullerton are the one thing about this whole situation that has gone right.  The system failed Kelly Thomas.  It didn’t fail him because he’s homeless; it failed him because he’s not a cop . . . Two officers currently employed by this city made a defense of Ramos and Cicinelli.  They said all things considered they didn’t violate any policy or procedure . . . when they beat him with a taser, when the left him for dead in the street, when they mocked him, when they escalated the situation. . . none of that was against policy?

AW: “I got two words for you guys: Not guilty . . . HA HA HA HA HA” (speaking of his arrest on Saturday.  That’s a quote from an arresting officer.)

(Unknown): Turns her back, gets cut off by the mayor.  Waiting for her to get escorted out.  The mayor has decided to let her go.  She’s clearly causing a disturbance.  The Mayor has called for a break.

Well, so far, so good.  Interesting comments.  I hope the Voice of OC reporter here can get a hold of AW and get more of his story regarding his arrest.

And we’re back.

(Unknown): (Some b.s. about common law and the Napoleonic code . . . not going to waste your time on this.  It’s rather sad.)

Valarie: Right now, with those officers on the force, I don’t feel safe . . . Why do we have to have a whole community to come together to tell you that keeping these officers on this force is wrong?

(Unknown): I’m a journalist!  I’m a REAL journalist!  (I’m a real journalist who tapes myself!) I saw Fullerton Police on Saturday who were targeting real journalists who were speaking the truth.  Everyone in this room knows that they lie! (okay, I get it, you’re speaking from the heart.  You get an A+ for effort, but you look ridiculous. . . she makes some accusations regarding the main stream media, which have actually been pretty well covered.  Anyone looking into this?)

Joe (Fullerton Informer):  Will anyone please step on the other side of this dais and join the people?

Gene: (She talks really fast, but she’s pretty awesome.) Come on, riot gear and tanks?!  (Really, too fast.  Remind me not to piss off this woman.  She will seriously kick your ass and you’ll thank her for the lesson afterward.)  There has to be a starting point with the police department!  The whistle blowers should be getting promoted!  They should be getting medals!

(Unknown):  They say that Kelly was crazy?  Oh, I think those officers were crazy.  The only training they received was how to cover for themselves, how to lie.  Why couldn’t they have handcuffed them while he was sitting here? . . .If you’re going to be a true professional and wear that badge, you had better make sure you have a heart before you put on that badge.

Linda (RN, resident for 58 years): When my father graduated from the police academy a long time ago, words were used like honor and admiration and safety.  Those words aren’t used today in Fullerton . . .  (well done, ma’am.)

Terry: I have to tell you that the people did not get a fair trial . . .

Kendra: I’ve been a victim of a former police officer in Fullerton.  When I was told that three months ago . . . (feed cuts off. . . . I really wanted to hear what this woman had to say.  She’s clearly emotional and even though I can’t hear what she has to say, it’s very moving.)

Gruff Guy: We want our city back as the way it was.  I’ve lived here a long time and I’ve seen a lot of changes over the years.  This is bad.

LA: Thank you to Chief Hughes.  I was there on Saturday . . . there were some outliers there who were trying to cause a ruckus, but the community started coming together.  It could have been such a positive wonderful thing.  These were wonderful things that were robbed from us by outliers.  I want you to understand that you have a good community.  You have a positive community.  (I couldn’t get the story about, what sounds like, false imprisonment of five individuals on Saturday at 3:30.)

(Unknown): I am a furious citizen, but I come in peace!  I’m here for Kelly Thomas, and honestly, it could have been any one of us that night.  The brutal murder of a member of our society should never be justified as a group of people just doing their jobs. . . why must you show up to a peaceful protest in riot gear and MRAP vehicles?

(Unknown): No amount of money is worth having a danger to society on the street.  (speaking to either having to pay off the officers wanting their jobs back or letting them back on the force.)

(Unknown): I’m ashamed at the verdict.  I’m ashamed at the City of Fullerton, which I love dear to my heart . . . what about the officers that had integrity that helped me raise my son?  This is a gross injustice to them as well.  We’re in this together . . . I hope we can get some justice.  It’s up to you.  It’s up to you and I’m begging you.  I’m begging you for some justice.

Barry Levinson: How can you reform behavior that all of you identify as proper?! (sorry Barry, good stuff.  Shoot me a note and I’ll update if you’d like.)

(Unknown): Our system, you have to face it, is very broken . . . there is no state or city code that can usurp the Constitution of the United States.  What we’ve witnessed is a serious abuse of our first amendment rights . . . Let’s face it, the main stream media is discredited.  This is disgusting.   This isn’t Nazi Germany, I hope you understand that.  This is America.

Sean Paden:  If you vote to put [Cicinelli] back on the force, you will be out of a job (and the sound dies again. . . Sorry Sean.)

(Unknown): If you want us to believe in you, give us a reason. (Nicely done.)

(Unknown): (blah blah blah, Obama is a Communist . . . blah blah blah)

Greg: It’s a hard job out there and I just wanted to say thank you for all it is that you do.

JeffL: It’s bad enough, this verdict, no charges what so ever?  Come on, if that was me, I would be on the Grey Goose on the way to the death chamber. . . We’ve got to be fair . . . we have some great officers and it’s hard for them to do their jobs.

Jesse LaTour: I am just bewildered, flustered, I’m angry . . . My nephew who’s ten asked me where I was and what I was doing . . . how do I explain this?  Police officers killed a guy, there was video tape, and he was found not guilty.  How do you explain that to a ten year old and what precedent does that set?  I don’t know what to say to my nephew who’s ten.  I know you weren’t on the jury, but I hope to God that you’ll lead so that this will never happen again.

Roslyn: There is a significant problem, obviously, and there is a lot of concern with how this department handles the mentally ill.

Scott Wilkins: I really really urge the five of you to definitely not let Cicinelli back here.  He’s not wanted here . . . it’s time to move on and just tell him that. . . You think of the very soul of this city ripped apart by its Police Department.  The soul of this city has a scar on it like it will never, ever, heal.  It will never go away . . . When the only tool you have is the Police, everything starts to look like a riot.  I know you guys will do the right thing, just make sure that creep doesn’t come back here, ever.

Patrick Hughes: The world is a dangerous place to be.  Not because of people who are evil, but because of people who are good and do nothing about it. . . Equality. He was a human being, and where were his rights when he was approached?

Joel: Am I living in Nazi Germany?  (Fades off into lunacy.  You had potential, son.)

(Unknown): What’s this going to cost the taxpayers here?  I know you’re going pay them off.  What’s this going to cost us?

(Unknown): Taking a life by government without due process is a violation of that person’s 4th amendment rights . . . We’ve gone from Mayberry to a militarized police state?! Do we have to wait until it happens to one of you or one of your family members?  . . . Seize the day.  Do what’s right.

(angry guy yelling in the background)

Brian: On that day, that could have been my son.  It could have been my beautiful beautiful son who’s sitting here today, it could have been my son that day.  It could have been anyone’s son. (Brain, I hear you.  I hear you.)

Lucia: These are bullies with badges.  We should fire ALL bullies with badges.  We should never hire bullies with badges.  We need PEACE officers.

Liz: It may look like evil has won, but it has not.  You all have the power to make a change

Rick Alvarez: (wearing his I <3 FPD shirt): I think this is a moment for Fullerton that we can define where we go from here . . . I believe Chief Hughes will make the right decisions for our city.  If he does not, we’ll hold him accountable.

 

OK, that’s it folks.  Kids need baths and I gotta get home.

Nevermind.  Good stuff.  Whitaker makes a point of order (which sounds right to me), Chaffee says he didn’t, Whitaker makes it clear that he supports Citizen’s Oversight.

Jan Flory: With respect to Citizen Police Oversight, that was dealt with at at least two city council meetings. (Point of order, that is a complete falsehood.  It has been agendized for public discussion exactly ZERO times during council meetings.)  One of the reasons this council elected not to pursue Citizen’s Oversight is because it conflicted with POBAR.  Instead, we chose an audit model (i.e., contracting out accountability for the city’s moral fiber.)  We are all learning a lot through this process . . . I for one hear you, I’m sure my colleagues hear you also . . . We are very concerned about what happens here.

Doug Chaffee: Questions for Chief Hughes

Chief Hughes:  (Outlines points of reform.  Training, liaisons from OC mental health, counselors, community communications, service days, non-profit partnering,   Theme (in my opinion) is openness.)  Almost an entire command staff has changed in the last two years. <– That’s interesting.  We’ve included what is the moral and ethical reason to use force.  (Wish I got that last line right.  It was good.)  We need to make sure we use as little force as possible.  (Makes that MRAP on Saturday . . . interesting.)  Wearing this Fullerton badge is not an entitlement.  It is a privilege.

 


About Ryan Cantor

Our young conservative columnist, based in Fullerton, works as a Project Development Analyst and Strategic Planner for a major petroleum firm, and is an avid homebrewer. (Anger Management Brewery)