This week Orange County Register columnist David Whiting changed things up. Instead of licking the boots of brutal police officers, he licked the loafers of the three Fullerton councilmembers facing recall in June: former Mayor Dick Jones, former Fullerton cop Don Bankhead and former Fullerton Police Chief Pat Mckinley. Following the Kelly Thomas beating all three either remained tight-lipped or defended the outrageous abuse of police power while angry citizens demanded answers and justice.
Last November, the Weekly's own R. Scott Moxley wrote about Whiting's efforts to follow in the footsteps of former Reg columnist Gordon Dillow, who frequently sided with brutal cops in his column and infamously championed disgraced former Orange County Sheriff and current federal prison inmate Mike Carona.
It seemed every time Moxley wrote an article about out-of-control officers–such as the jail deputies who put a suspected sex offender (later proved innocent) in a cell with a convicted murderer–Whiting would play devil's advocate. After being granted access to the jail, and observing deputies for part of a day, Whiting concluded the lawmen in fact performed their duties “with a lot of patience and a touch of grace.”
Following a piece Moxley wrote about Friends for Fullerton's Future blogger Tony Bushala, whose relentless coverage in the wake of the Thomas beating brought the incident world-wide attention, Whiting opined that Bushala had created a “mob mentality” against cops and wrote that people should try to empathize with officers like Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli.
Now, Whiting is telling his readers all about his experience at last week's Fullerton city council meeting, which saw residents ranting at the three councilmen about the city's continued employment of the involved officers. Attempting to appear abjectly objective, Whiting dished out a big condescending pat on the back for all parties involved.
“Let's keep in mind,” wrote Whiting, that “kudos should go to citizens on both sides of the council table.”
Yay, everyone's a winner. Head on down to Shakey's after the recall to watch Whiting buy the losers pizza.
Not nearly as objective as he'd like his readers to believe, Whiting bent over forward as he attempted to rehabilitate the tarnished images of the three councilmembers, describing their continued compassion throughout the whole Thomas ordeal. He obtusely compared quotes from the recallees spanning the seven month stretch of time between the beating and the recent release of the brutal video tape.
“Then–McKinley “'I look at these (still) pictures of Kelly Thomas and I'm just as appalled as anyone.'”
“Now–McKinley “'I feel very bad Kelly Thomas died.'”
Lucky for the officers charged with Thomas's death, Whiting isn't representing them in court.
But most humorous to us here at the Weekly was Whiting's jab at our recent profile on Bushala. Spelling his name “Bashula,” Whiting referenced the fact that the Fullerton blogger is a millionaire who's almost single-handedly bankrolled the recall and led the charge to remove Jones, Bankhead and McKinley. Our article's headline, which took a cue from Bushala's critics, asked if he was Fullerton's newest king maker.
Whiting, it seems, struggled to get past the headline.
“In a nation that got rid of kings more than two centuries ago,” he wrote. “it's an interesting question.”
His statement was laced with irony. On the one hand, Whiting's column lamented the tyranny of kings but supported obedience and civic restraint when it comes to police brutality. Throughout the piece, he went out of his way to hold those with the power utterly blameless.
Quick to point to Bushala's millionaire status and funding of the recall, Whiting didn't mention the tens of thousands of dollars donated to the anti-recall campaign by California police unions. Instead of referring to Officer Joe Wolfe as one of Kelly Thomas's attackers, which the video clearly shows he is–he was first to strike Thomas with his baton–Whiting clumsily described him as “an uncharged officer and partner of one of those charged.”
The columnist also offered reasons why the city council could do little to affect the police department's actions following the beating and quoted one recall candidate demanding answers about Wolfe and why he was only on administrative leave. Whiting's answer might lead dimwitted readers to ask: “Who needs a city council when a nature columnist is on hand to act as civic liaison.”
“As McKinley told me,” Whiting wrote. “Due process–especially in a state with a police officer's bill of rights–takes time.”
People of Orange County, put down your protest signs and stop demanding justice. David Whiting has convened with the powers that be, and they assure him everything is fine. There's nothing to see here. Move along.
Of course if yesterday's revelation that officers Manual Ramos and Joe Wolfe have been fired are true, it would seem even the powers that be aren't reading Whiting's column anymore.