October 20, 2011 | 3:24pm
The city-funded investigation of Kelly Thomas' beating death at the hands of Fullerton cops has finally started.
Michael Gennaco, who was hired by the Fullerton City Council in August to investigate both the July 5 beating and the police department's overall "practices and procedures," told the Weekly that he started to delve into the investigative process this week.
Although he had already begun his investigation of the department as a whole, Gennaco was holding off on investigating Thomas' death until after the district attorney's office finished its investigation in late September.
On Friday, Gennaco picked up the DA's report, which he called "a big hunking thing," adding that he's currently "in the middle of it."
At an Oct. 4 meeting in Fullerton, Michael Gennaco tells the city council that he's still waiting on the DA's report.
Marisa Gerber/ OCWeekly
While the investigation has now "officially" started, Gennaco says he'll still be in the "review process" for a few days. Once he's sifted through all of the information in the report, he plans to make a list of additional witnesses and chart out an interview schedule.
One of the main things Gennaco plans to do that the DA didn't is interview the officers involved in Thomas' beating. Those interviews will probably come at the tail end of his investigation, Gennaco says. Asked if the officers could deny to be interviewed, Gennaco said, "Well, not really. They can be compelled to cooperate. It's different than for the DA."
He's also still in the process of formulating a list of recommendations for how the department could better function. Gennaco, who runs Los Angeles County's office of independent review, said that after his work in LA, "The Fullerton Thing" is his "second most important focus," adding that he has a team of four people to help him.
Per the contract, Gennaco has a $260 hourly rate, and the city anticipates paying him between $70,000 and $80,000 for the combined costs of the two investigations.
Councilman Bruce Whitaker, the only member of the five-person city council who voted against hiring Gennaco, because he anticipated a long delay before the investigation started, told the Weekly he's glad the ball is finally rolling. "We've been waiting a long time," Whitaker said, adding that he found it "very disturbing" to watch "business as usual" continue in the city after Thomas' death.