Throughout the entire ongoing Fullerton police brutality-fest/fiasco, we’ve been led to believe that a big part of the problem is that officers are protected and shielded and there is nothing anybody can do about it. It is said that they are shielded by their own, and by a set of laws and court cases which protect them: the Police Officer’s Bill of Rights and associated court decisions
What hasn’t been discussed much is what is actually possible to do. Let’s say a citizen filed a complaint against the police because of the brutality of an arresting officer: a Tong or a Thayer or a Hampton or a Ramos or a Cicinelli or… you get the idea, plenty to choose from.
What happens to that complaint? In Fullerton it gets buried in an officer’s personnel file unless Internal Affairs made the determination that it was grounds for criminal prosecution. Just think how often that must happen.
But what, if anything, can anybody in a supervisory position do when faced with misconduct by their officers? Apparently you can fire them. At least according to Anaheim Chief of Police John Welter.
See, reportedly under Welter when officers get out of line, by say not being very respectful to the citizenry, they are disciplined. “Every time they lose their cool and insult somebody or don’t act professional, we’ll hold them accountable. We discipline them. I’ve terminated probably 12 to 15 officers since I’ve been here.”
Trying to set aside my skepticism for a minute let’s take Chief Welter at his word. If Welter can do it, why couldn’t Sellers, Hamilton, or Hughes fire every rogue cop in the Fullerton police department? Every cop guilty of abusing and harassing innocent members of the public? Every cop who roughed up a prisoner just for fun? Every officer who has harassed a female, been guilty of racism, beaten up someone they perceived as a “bum” or a “gang banger”, given someone a “screen test”? Every one of the cops who beat Kelly Thomas to death? And maybe even a few cop blog commenters who do little besides insult the public and are about as professional as a troop of stoned baboons?
I guess any of our chiefs could have. They just didn’t want to.
Now, I don’t actually believe that Chief Welter means a word he says. But let’s go ahead and hold him to the standard he claims to have. Better start doing some more firing Chiefs. And yes, that goes for Anaheim AND Fullerton.