For me, the difference in use-of-force cases is that
not only are we evaluating the suspect’s actions, we
are also reviewing the officers’ conduct and actions
to determine if they are within department policy
or if that action could rise to the level of criminal
conduct. We do not normally allow suspects to view
the video prior to being interviewed about their
actions, so in my opinion to allow officers to do
so compromises or damages the public’s trust and
confidence in the investigative process.
Q. As you noted, the department edited the video
and audio together for the tape that was played at
the pretrial hearing. What was your reaction, and
reaction within the department, when you and
others first saw and heard what had happened?
A. The death of Kelly Thomas is a tragedy on many
levels. It has been devastating for the Thomas family,
our community, our police department and our city
government. The results are far from over, but thus
far a family has lost a son, a police chief has retired,
and the reputation of a very good police department
has been severely tarnished.
Q. Does this case change how you respond to or deal
with allegations of officer misconduct? If so, how?
A. We have conducted an internal assessment of
how we could respond differently and have made
several changes, including additional supervisory
oversight, new processes in actively auditing our
personnel, and researching early warning and
intervention processes to detect behaviors that are
likely to lead to misconduct.
In addition, we have hired Michael Gennaco from
the County of Los Angeles Office of Independent
Review to conduct a thorough assessment of our
department’s policies, procedures and practices and
then to make recommendations for improvement.
Gennaco is still working on his report and we expect
to receive it within the next month.
In regards to responding to allegations of
misconduct, we are making every effort possible
within the boundaries of the law to respond to
misinformation about alleged misconduct. This has
included obtaining consent from officers to allow us
to discuss an allegation and meeting with credible
members of the media to have them listen to the
audio recordings themselves before writing a story
about the alleged misconduct.
Q. Any other policy changes?
A. In the past six months, we have made many. We
have approved a new policy manual and placed
a copy of it online for the public to review. Other
changes include improved auditing requirements
on all monies and narcotics booked as evidence,
use-of-force training to include the legal, reasonable,
ethical and moral decision-making process when
using force, adding a chaplain program, mandatory
monthly crime strategy meetings with supervisors, a
new citizen complaint and auditing process, victim
advocate ride-along program, and proposing a
Chief’s Community Advisory Board.
Q. How is the Fullerton Police Department
restoring the public’s trust?
A. The Fullerton Police Department has served this
community for 124 years and we are very fortunate
that the vast amount of our community members
have trust and confidence in us, which is mandatory
for a police department to be effective. With that
said, it is evident we still have a lot of work to do to
gain the trust of some segments of our community.
We are committed to earning this trust.
Some of the ways we are doing this is by reviewing
our policies, procedures and practices to ensure that
our officers are making the proper ethical decisions
in the field. We need to be more transparent in our
operations so our motives are not questioned. We
have completely opened our department to our
community and the media, where we take them
to all areas of our police facility and explain the
purpose of why we do what we do. We are attending
community meetings, we have just completed a
citizen’s academy, we are developing additional
community partnerships, and we are communicating
the changes we are making.
We understand that building trusting relationships
and partnering with our community is vital, and we
are committed to doing a much better job at this.
Q. What are you doing about morale?
A. I believe we have some of the best officers and
support staff in the state, and their commitment to
conduct themselves honorably to our profession in
the midst of what has occurred has been humbling
and amazing. They have endured months of protests
to the front of our police station, false allegations
in the media, citizens screaming at them during
public contacts, and comments on a local blog site
designed to be critical of their every move.
Acting Chief Dan Hughes; Fullerton officers in a moment of reflection
Behind The Badge
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