Sunday, July 17, 2011

FPD Needs To Disclose Details of Beating Death

Op-Ed By Allen Bacon, The Daily Bosco

Growing up in Fullerton, I have always had a tremendous respect for the men and women that serve on our Police force in the city. That respect grew even more as I went on ride-alongs as a kid. Or when the nice officers would visit Richman Elementary and speak to us kids about the dangers of drugs. Then later some of my friends joined first the Scout program and then became officers with FPD. My brother went through the Fullerton College Police Cadet program and became an officer with the Orange County Sheriffs Department. Then I came to realize first hand, from an adult perspective, what it is like to be an officer.

I guess what I am trying to say is that I think I understand the challenges and the pressures and the good work our officers and leaders on the FPD do in behalf of the city.

So this is why I am a little more than puzzled and alarmed by the developments of this horrible beating and ultimate death of Kelly Thomas on July 5.

This is, by all what I have heard so far, not the Fullerton Police Department I know and respect.

According to eyewitness accounts, Thomas, 37, was beaten and tasered by six FPD officers. According to Thomas' father, a career law enforcement and military man, his son's face was beaten into an almost unrecognizable condition by the officers. He said based on his experience as an officer, the FPD used unnecessary force and there were no drugs in his son's system. Kelly Thomas was unconscious after being beaten by the officers, according to witnesses, and put on life support. The Thomas family made the tough decision to pull life support on July 10.

According to one source, a video of the incident was taken by a local real estate agent and the police officers took the video for evidence. There is also a camera in the Transportation Center area which may have caught the incident on tape.

After nearly four weeks, we need answers. I would like Chief of Police and the DA's office to hold a press conference to make public comment and show the video and explain why six uniformed FPD officers that probably weigh a combined weight of around 1500 pounds with their equipment had the need to beat to death one 165 pound man with apparently no weapons on him while people around, reportedly, shouted to the officers to stop the unnecessary brutality. I am quite positive the video will show the reason why this was necessary and exonerate the officers and the Department. But the longer the silence from the FPD and the DA's office continues, it appears there may be a cover up.

What disciplinary action, if any, is being taken against the officers? And what training, if any, is being done with all officers to teach the proper method of interrogation and subduing a suspect going forward? We pay the Police Officers salaries. We have a right to know.

Please restore my faith in the FPD and do this now.


Anonymous said...

The Fullerton police department had better take this invitation seriously, because many of us in Fullerton share the same sentiment. Our PD is increasingly tending towards military dress, instead of friendly police uniforms. Their cars are incredibly over-the-top in the way of "Robo-cop" type of equipment and lights and tasers and all. It's oppressive, and Fullerton PD had better remember they are there to protect and serve, not beat us into submission.

Doug Vehle said...

Former sheriff's deputy Ron Thomas tells us that his son was beaten to death by the Fullerton Police for "contempt of cop."

Interesting dynamic, the son of law enforcement killed by law enforcement.

What do I know? I know Kelly Thomas had a confrontation with a woman about 5 hours earlier, with the police "Showing up" as I arrived to go into Citibank. By the time I came out maybe 2 minutes later, he was winning the shouting match about whether he got to go there or not, I didn't really see the officer getting involved, but Thomas went off and the woman was speaking to the officer. I can only offer a hunch that it's a situation where the woman was harassing Thomas, he being right in his stand. People would be amazed that they can be arrested for trying to run someone like him off. But did this leave him in the wrong mood for what was coming later that night?

I know he was no shrinking violet. Just let some door man at a restaurant mouth off at him as he's walking past (Minding his own business) and he'd turn around and dash inside to continue the discussion there. Restaurants such as Slidebar or Bourbon Street will feed these homeless people, but then they have the wrong clown working the door one night. Who knows what happened in the intervening 5 hours.

I know it was one ugly mob when I came out of the Greek restaurant some 200 feet away and went to see what the commotion was. I did a little quelling of the escalating talk. One old man came up after I did and asked what happened. Almost immediately he started shouting things, including "I saw the whole thing." One more reasonable individual told me that if they put him on the stretcher and prop his knees in the air, that means they think he's brain dead but want the crowd to think he's moving. They did indeed prop his knees in the air. Why did they tell the family that they took him to the hospital in a patrol car? Did the person who contacted him just make a mistake? Were they trying to buy some time before it came out how bad it was?

Doug Vehle said...

Don't know about over the top, the Dodge Charger is one neat looking car but it's otherwise an ordinary police vehicle. Such big wheels for a patrol car, eh? I guess since McKinley retired they've had less of the sweatshirt and jeans dress and more uniforms, but there's nothing wrong with that. I haven't seen anything military looking. I live in a quiet neighborhood where you don't see them much, but I spend a lot of time in the evenings at the restaurants around where the beating occurs, the cops are all around there.

I know Fullerton PD had another (Nonfatality) beating incident hanging over their heads, no idea if that was resolved yet. If not it will become a news story.

I'm told there was a watch commander or station commander watching the whole thing back at the station. They took a video from someone? Was it videotape? With the digital now you can write another copy real quick. Mostly they try to get those to keep anyone else from seeing it. Technically, that counts as a deliberate coverup.

I know in police training there's a real wink and a nod regarding "Contempt Of Cop" and "Pissed Off Police." Told the official position of what can happen to an officer who does these things, followed by giggly war stories of "This one guy. . . ." The point being the teller obviously got away with it. I know because before my accident I was getting ready to be a reserve, not just academy training but an AA at Fullerton College with a 4.0 GPA. Long term recovery from a leg injury gave me time to think real hard about the grab ass lie on command games they played in the Long Beach PD academy, I never went back. A real shame, because the more honest people that are scared away, the more room that's left for the dirt bags.

And I know there's one officer who was there, not sure if he was involved or if she showed up later, that looked like he was going to cry. They're not all psychos. The psychos in fact are those who deal better with the whole 'You're either with me or you're against me' sentiment that rises up in the department at a time like this. The guy who cries is the sane one who might leave at a time like this, leaving more room for the dirt bags. . . .