FULLERTON (CBSLA.com) — An independent investigator said Tuesday that the Fullerton Police Department violated the public’s trust and recommended 59 changes to the department in the wake of the beating death of Kelly Thomas.
Michael Gennaco, president of the Los Angeles Office of Independent Review, presented the city council with a 53-page final internal report of the police department’s policies and procedures following Thomas’ death.
The 37-year-old, who suffered from schizophrenia, was badly injured after a confrontation with police last July. He died five days later.
Although Gennaco said there was no corruption or cover-up within the department, there was a past “complacency” in discipline.
“The use of force that came out of that incident never needed to occur in the first place. The report concludes that officers who were better oriented into dealing with Mr. Thomas could have resolved the matter without resorting to significant force or any force,” said Gennaco.
He added, “The most tragic aspect of this whole case was that the force used on Mr. Thomas that led to his death did not need to happen and could have been resolved as most FPD officers resolved their citizens contacts every day.”
Gennaco said officers failed to turn on digital and audio recorders and didn’t report the beating of Thomas to the District Attorney for two days.
The review did credit the police department with recognizing the need to change.
Acting Police Chief Dan Hughes said Gennaco has already required further training to officers to give them the skills to deal with the mentally ill.
The department has hired a full-time officer just to deal with the homeless.
Former officers Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli are awaiting trial in the Thomas incident.
Ramos is accused of one count of second degree murder and one felony count of involuntary manslaughter.
Cicinelli is charged with one felony count of involuntary manslaughter and one felony count of the use of excessive force.
The District Attorney has not charged Joe Wolfe.
Ron Thomas, Kelly’s father, wants his son’s name cleared.
“Kelly did not do the things he was accused of doing,” he said.