Life is Good

What’s this? A former Fullerton Police Chief Mike Sellers sighting! Here is Iron Mike confabbing with Placentia Police Chief R.A. Hicks in the booth of a cozy Yorba Linda eatery.

Perhaps Sellers is dispensing wisdom about how to bail on one’s professional responsibilities and duty as soon as times get tough; perhaps he is explaining how to run a clean, efficient department.

We do know that for Sellers, who is able to squeak by on a pension of $20,000 a month, life is indeed good.

It’s a Long Way to San Clemente

This letter just came in from councilman Bruce Whitaker, who seems to be a bit peeved that the wayward FPD is still slithering along without a leader. The pictures are courtesy of FFFF. Enjoy!

In less than a week, the City of Fullerton will be more than one year derelict in enforcing performance of a critical requirement outlined in its employment agreement with current Chief of Police, Michael Sellers.

I have frequently asserted in print, television and radio interviews that Sellers is in violation of a residency requirement (point #11) which states “Sellers will make a bona fide effort to relocate his primary residence to Fullerton no later than December 2010.”

'Twas the best of times...

Though hired two and a half years ago, Sellers continues to reside in San Clemente where his home is 43 miles from the Fullerton Police Station. Of California’s 69 cities with a population of 100,000 or more, Fullerton is the ONLY city whose police chief resides more than 40 miles away. The vast majority of California cities are served by chiefs who reside within the city they serve.

In my opinion, the clear intent of the council at that time was to compel Sellers to relocate to Fullerton, no later than December 2010. Merely making “an effort” would provide no value or benefit whatsoever, the intent was for him to live here. The Chief’s being less than an hour away was not just preferred, but essential. Since leadership in an emergency, and understanding fully the community one serves are core, critical requirements . . . without agreeing to this point, would Sellers even have been hired in the first place?

A strong case can be made that since San Clemente home values are 74% higher than in Fullerton there is no financial barrier for Sellers refusal to comply. In any event, it is Sellers burden to prove that he has met requirements in the employment agreement. Despite my efforts, an aggressive legal interpretation, one which would protect Fullerton taxpayers interests has not surfaced.

Fullerton? Just a distant memory now.

It is nearly 2012 and Sellers remains the Chief of Police, a current employee of the City of Fullerton. Immediate action is required to enforce this contract which even a year later is still being violated without consequence. It should have long ago been rendered “null and void.” It remains for the council majority to explain how “giving away public money” is a preferable course of inaction.

-Bruce Whitaker

A Little Bit About Chief Sellers

Here’s a re-post of a story that Travis did in March 2010 on now AWOL Chief Sellers. It seems that Sellers was pretty good at slingin’ the ol’community policing lingo and didn’t seem like the sort of guy that would cultivate a corrupt, out of control goon squad.

What neither Travis nor any of us knew was that Sellers was doing very little to impress this philosophy onto the crew of thugs, misfits, whackjobs, and pickpockets he inherited from Pat McPension. Unfortunately for us, Chief McPension had cultivated quite a nasty little garden over his 17 year command.

But let’s not shed any misplaced tears for Sellers. Even tho’ McPension left him a considerable criminal element, he appears to have done nothing to weed out the noxious blooms in the FPD flower bed during his abortive, two-year stint as Chief.

– Joe Sipowicz

Last week Sharon Quirk-Silva invited me to join her public chat with Fullerton Police Chief Michael Sellers at the Fullerton Museum Center. Chief Sellers answered a variety of questions from Fullerton’s usual cluster of civic participants. Some were there to ask legitimate questions, while others used the open Q&A format to primarily talk about themselves under the guise of asking a question (the excessive use of the perpendicular pronoun reveals the intentions of the self-important).

The most vacuous question of the night came from school board candidate Aaruni Thakur, who was interested in the number of Baker to Vegas trophies displayed in the lobby of the police department. While some of us at FFFF would never question the opportunity to make a mockery of the ‘ol dog and pony show, it struck me as a missed opportunity for the untested school board candidate who should have been impressing us with his civic insight.

So on to Chief Sellers. He gave most of the answers that one would expect, citing crime statistics elaborating on existing department policies. Nothing surprising or terribly revealing.

But here’s what struck me: I listened to the Chief of Police for an hour and a half, and not once did I catch a hint of the authoritarianism that tends to seep out of career law enforcement bureaucrats. He never implied that he “knew what’s best for the people”. His responses to controversial questions on marijuana dispensaries and homeless disturbances were telling – Sellers said he can only enforce the laws that the People enact, regardless of his personal feelings on the issues.

Sellers came across as genuinely amiable to policing methods that seek to reduce crime through community interaction, rather than relying purely on brute-force suppression and mindless “law and order” approaches that alienate law enforcement agencies from the people whom they are supposed to serve. Officers are encouraged to build relationships and find long-term solutions to crime problems, rather than just cycle junkies and gang bangers through our failing prison system.

I left feeling surprisingly satisfied with the police chief appointment that our city council made last year. Hopefully Sellers turns out to be “tough on crime” without being tough on the rest of us.

John and Ken Event Postponed, Chief Sellers Still Under the Weather

The recall targets have been given a temporary reprieve from John and Ken’s physical presence due to inclement weather. We’ll be rescheduling the event sometime after next week.

Meanwhile, City Hall is still being battered by the media storm of their own creation. Check out today’s news byte… apparently Chief Sellers’ medical leave is having hefty impact on Fullerton’s finances.

Still, $19,000 a month is chump change compared to the damage Chief McKinley’s wrecking crew did while Sellers watched safely from his office. As with many of his FPD cohorts, it’s just plain cheaper to keep him at home where he can’t hurt anybody.

Another Federal Lawsuit Filed Against FPD

Attorney Garo Mardirossian followed through with his promise yesterday, and now Fullerton is facing a new federal lawsuit from that guy who was wrongfully arrested for filming the police last year.

The suit alleges that Officer Kenton Hampton wrongfully assaulted Veth Mam and that officers Jonathan Miller, Frank Nguyen and Daniel Solario falsified police reports in an attempt to convict Mam for an assault against a police officer that he did not, in fact, commit.

Read the lawsuit

The DA and the FPD had attempted prosecution of Mam earlier this year, despite viewing this video of the event which completely conflicts with what the officers wrote in their reports. A jury has already sided against the FPD and determined that Mam was innocent.

View the police reports

Chief Sellers is also named in the suit for willfully refusing to discipline or hold accountable any of his officers for felonies they allegedly committed against Veth Mam. He is also accused of allowing his department to “cover up acts of misconduct and abuse, “ that he “sanctioned a code of silence by and among officers,” and that the FPD “threatened, intimidated, demoted and fired officers who reported acts of abuse by other officers.”

Mardirossian says that if Chief Sellers had taken appropriate action against officer Kenton Hampton (one of the officers involved in the death of Kelly Thomas) at the time, Kelly Thomas might still be alive today.

Chief Sellers Takes a Powder?

I just heard from a reliable source that Fullerton Police Chief Mike Sellers has put in for a minimum 30 day medical leave for some undisclosed malady.

Yikes! Is this going to be a stress-related gig? Can it be preliminary to a pension tax-grab? Is it driven by the dismal McPension interview on CNN?

I don’t know, but when I do I’ll let the Friends know all about it.

Uh Oh. Is the DA’s Investigation in the Hands of the Chief’s Good Buddy?

We may have figured out why it took the District Attorney investigators three weeks to start talking to witnesses on the Kelly Thomas police beating case…

According to this unsigned note that just came in to our website, Chief Sellers is a close personal friend of DA investigator Stan Berry, who was immediately assigned to the high-profile Fullerton case:

I suggest you check into the connection between Investigator Berry and FPD Chief Sellers. Sellers hired Berry when he was the Chief at Seal Beach PD. Sellers and his wife Rita Fraser-Sellers, are close personal friends with Berry and his wife, Kristen Berry, the Dispatch Supervisor in Seal Beach. They socialize together, vacation together and entertain each other in their respective homes.

Of all the DA investigators, why choose Berry, other than he will help cover for his friend.

Presumably that case assignment was a decision made by the DA Tony Rackauckas. I have confirmed that Berry worked as an investigator under Chief Sellers for the Seal Beach Police Department.

As for as the familial socializing, entertaining and vacationing together…maybe the Chief can clear that one up for us.

If our informant is correct, this would be a huge conflict of interest in a very high-profile investigation.

FAIL To The Chief

We have nothing to hide. Now it's off to the Caribbean...

We received the following correspondence from a long-time Friend.

The controversy surrounding the recent beating death of Kelly Thomas, a local mentally ill homeless man at the hands of the Fullerton Police has been marked by the absence of Chief Michael Sellers. The FPD has instead relied on its regular spokesman Sgt. Andrew Goodrich for information about the case. This might be thought an appropriate channel of communication if this were anything like standard police work. It is not.  Six sworn peace officers beat a man to near death (he died days later) in the parking lot of the Fullerton Transportation Center, and no explanation has been offered other than that the man offered physical resistance and that a thorough investigation will follow.

The brutality of the beating has left many in this city asking how it was that six trained police officers could not subdue a single unarmed man without killing him. Chief Sellers, who is reportedly vacationing, neither returned to Fullerton to appear before the press and public or even offered a written statement about the tragedy. His complete absence does nothing to assure the people of Fullerton that there is responsible leadership being exercised over the officers in his department.

The DUI Checkpoint Scam: 16 Cops + 6 Hours of Overtime = 4 Drunks

How many cops does it take to bust a drunk driver? A whole lot of ’em if they’re running a checkpoint.

Last month we asked Chief Michael Sellers a few questions on recent DUI checkpoints in Fullerton. The stats that we got back lead to the conclusion that DUI checkpoints are just a handy bonus program for Fullerton cops, with little effect on public safety.

Back in March the Fullerton PD ran a 6 hour DUI checkpoint which employed sixteen police officers, each of them earning overtime pay — that’s 150% of their normal wage.  At the end of the night, the police had nabbed only four motorists for driving under the influence. The city also impounded a dozen cars from unlicensed drivers, but that’s a whole different shakedown.

Just stand here?

While hundreds of law-abiding drivers were being forced to stop and produce identification, patrons at downtown bars were spreading the word… intoxicated drivers should drive around the checkpoint on the way home.

So what is Chief Sellers’ excuse for such a blatant handout to his boys in blue?

Those guys made me do it.

The checkpoints are funded by state grants, says Sellers, as if that justifies any ‘ol squanderance that public employees can dream up. Around here, we call that “passing the buck”. It’s still our money, Chief, and we don’t want to fund overtime for your officers if they can’t be effective.

No local program should operate just because the state says it can. This is California, after all — a state renowned for it’s fiscal irresponsibility and zealous over-governance. Sixteen public safety employees on overtime without any significant accomplishments might slide under the radar in Sacramento, but we have higher expectations of our local agencies.

There will be another DUI checkpoint on tonight along Commonwealth in downtown Fullerton.

New Police Chief Promotes Open Government

In the spirit of open government, Fullerton Police Chief Mike Sellers made a promise to publicly disclose internal department policies and procedures on the city website.

We're always looking for new Friends

Even before Chief Sellers joined the Fullerton PD last month, there were musings of his strong stance on community-oriented policing. It sounds nice, doesn’t it? After a month on the job, it was time to put the PD to the test.

I made a quick request for the department’s taser policy in preparation for an item on the council agenda that would allocate $40,000 for new tasers. Chief Sellers’ initial reaction was the best that we could hope for… his command staff even offered to bring the policy by my house so I would have it in time for the meeting!

Unfortunately, we suspect that someone else at the department noticed my FFFF membership card because officer friendly was then told to deny my public records request. Perturbed by this sudden reversal,  I informed the chief and city council that the issue would be brought up at the city council meeting that night.

By the time I had spoken at the meeting, Chief Sellers had taken a stand and informed everyone that internal department polices would be available to the public and posted online.

The Chief knows there are loopholes in public record law that allow police departments to shut out the public, but Fullerton can rest easy knowing that FFFF and Chief Sellers have solidified their right to observe the inner workings of our government. And that’s how it should be.