Fullerton Police Finally Release Records per Mental Health Advocates' Request–But Are They Holding Back?

As promised, activists with Mind(ful) Liberation Project (MLP) have posted 22 pages of documents obtained from the Fullerton Police Department online. Prompted by the Kelly Thomas killing nearly a year ago, the organization filed a records-request for materials related to entry-level training and refresher courses on mental illness that officers receive. It went without formal response from the city for seven business days after the ten-day time frame required by California law until the Weekly called them on it and, poof, like magic, in came the documents. Coincidence? I think not!

Upon review, a central question arises: Is the city holding back or is this really all they have?


In total, five sets of documents were released without any redacted portions. Four of them are dated after the Kelly Thomas killing. Two include very brief sections of the department's policy manual on mental illness commitments and homeless persons had already been made available to the public and were adopted in February of this year under Acting Police Chief Dan Hughes.

Most substantive of all–which is really not saying much–is the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) enforcement training held over three dates in October 2011. Lesson plan outlines allude to issues of schizophrenia, field contacts with the mentally ill, and deescalation tactics being addressed. One section even asks, “Is Taser your only weapon?” How in-depth these training sessions were is impossible to ascertain. Again, these are just course outlines that were provided that are not much different than a college student's syllabus on the first day of class.

“The Crisis Intervention Team training is equivalent to what a Richmond patrol cop has,” says Gary Llama, an activist with the Virginia-based MLP who obtained similar records from that department last year and compared them with Fullerton. He goes on to question what use the CIT would have in a Thomas-type scenario, anyhow. It was a patrol stop and not a stand-off situation. Nowhere, either, in any of the materials released is there mention of collaborations with the Centralized Assessment Team (CAT).

Megan Osborn, who has been the main contact for the organization, is not satisfied with what has been provided and is asking for additional manuals and training materials including Power Point presentations, course notes, course outlines, course handouts and required tests.

Only one document is dated prior to the July 5, 2011 incident and deals with entry level training and testing. The July 1, 2008 outline is an even slimmer than the CIT documents and mostly deals with the question of 5150 determinations of whether or not a person poses a danger to himself or others and learning general behavior indicators. One particular section suggests training on how to 'differentiate between courses of action for peace officers when dealing with a person who appears to be affected with by a mental illness and is 1) Dangerous or gravely disabled, or 2) Not dangerous or gravely disabled.”

Without knowing the particulars, one would hope that the escalating tone and threat of force by Officer Manuel Ramos when he said “See these fists? They are getting ready to fuck you up if you don't do what we tell you,” to a person who displayed cognitive difficulties in following orders is not among the recommended course of action.

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