See the update at the bottom of this post detailing the city council's vote not to explore disbanding the Fullerton Police Department.
ORIGINAL POST, AUG. 7, 2012: Tonight the Fullerton City Council will consider the possibility of transferring law enforcement duties from the city's embattled police force to the Orange County Sheriff's Department. If you're scratching your head as images of brutalized inmates at the Sheriff-run county jail flash in your mind, you're not alone. We're told this move has less to do with the level of brutality associated with the Sheriff's department, and more about saving Fullerton taxpayers some coin.
“It's a question that should have been asked long ago in terms of fiscal responsibility,” said Councilman Travis Kiger, who added that regardless of which agency provides police services, he still supports civilian review. “Both (Fullerton and OCSD) have problems with alleged brutality, and that will have to be weighed.”
It's not clear whether such a reconfiguration would entail firing every member of Fullerton's force or absorbing them under the sheriff's banner, but tonight's meeting is focusing on asking the heriff to produce a bid outlining the costs to the city.
“What I'm hearing so far is that a bid might come out to millions of dollars of savings to Fullerton,” said Kiger. “If that turns out to be true, we'll have to look at that.”
The Fullerton Police Department's public image took a brutal shellacking after the death of unarmed homeless man Kelly Thomas at the hands of six of its officers. Many felt in the beating's aftermath that public officials, acting at the behest of powerful police unions, attempted to cover up the facts of the case. Three city councilmembers were recalled in June as a result.
“Hopefully you're not replacing the old with the new and sort of recycling personnel,” said Fullerton resident and Cal State Professor Jonathan Taylor. “It seems to me that the best alternative would be (to hire) a police chief that understands the nature of the problem of police brutality and is unwilling to tolerate it in the department.”
In which case he added, the color of the uniforms is irrelevant.
UPDATE AUG. 8, 2012 11:45 A.M.: Last night's meeting of the Fullerton City Council saw three of five members voting against further exploration of the process to replace the Fullerton Police Department with the Orange County Sheriff's Department. Councilmembers Bruce Whitaker and Travis Kiger both supported examining the cost benefits of such a restructuring, a process which which would have required long-term analyses.
“Sometimes you receive a quote,” said Whitaker. “But that doesn't mean you are buying a car.”
Yesterday Kiger, told the Weekly he believed switching the city's police services to the Sheriff's department could save tax payers millions of dollars.
But Mayor Sharon Quirk Silva expressed her support for the current department saying, “You can't replace people who have grown up here.”
In addition to majority council opposition, several members of the community spoke out against the move including members of Kelly's Army who said the Fullerton Police Department have begun moving in the right direction since the beating death of unarmed homeless man Kelly Thomas more than a year ago.