The Fullerton Police Department is looking to move forward after former Fullerton Police Chief Michael Sellers’ retirement went into effect Saturday, only three days before independent investigators release the first of three reports on the death of Kelly Thomas.
Mike Gennaco, chief attorney for the Los Angeles Office of Independent Review, will share his findings with the council Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. at the Fullerton City Hall, according to a press release from the city of Fullerton.
After Sellers announced his retirement earlier this month, the Fullerton community is looking to move on after the controversy following Thomas’ death, said City Manager Joe Felz.
Sellers’ announcement coincided with the resolution of his workers’ compensation claims, according to a press release issued earlier this month by the police department. Sellers will receive approximately $150,000 for his workers’ compensation claims, including legal fees, in addition to his retirement.
Felz said the medical claim “resolves any further liability on the part of the city” and “represents a true retirement, where there is no responsibility in Fullerton taxpayers for future medical costs for him.”
He also said the city has seen a wide range of reaction to Sellers’ retirement, but there is an overall desire to move on.
As far as selecting a new police chief, Felz said no candidates have been determined, nor will be for a few months – meanwhile, he and the council will be reviewing their options.
“We have an excellent acting chief at this point, Dan Hughes,” said Felz. “He will be in that role (for) the next several months.”
Acting Chief of Police Dan Hughes said the department is doing things differently, like allowing entrance to the press and being more open to the community.
Hughes began his career in 1983 as a police cadet and was hired as a police officer in 1985.
He has served a total of 28 years in the police department.
Hughes assumed the responsibility on Jan. 3, 2012 after the previous acting chief of police, Kevin Hamilton, retired.
“Part of what I’m doing is having my department become much more transparent in terms of our operations and the access to the police department,” said Hughes.
Hughes has also been involved in several community meetings where he has met with members of the public on a weekly basis.
“I’m really just focusing our attention on serving our community and enhancing our services that we provide,” Hughes said.
While some are more understanding of Sellers’ situation, others like Noe Ramirez, 21, a political science major, feel there are still unanswered questions with Sellers involving the Kelly Thomas case.
“If the controversy surrounding Kelly Thomas had never occurred, the chief could have gone on his medical leave with no questions asked,” said Ramirez.
Ramirez also said the retirement will bring about more criticism on the police department.
“The timing of the chief’s medial leave and subsequent retirement will leave many questions unanswered on the state of the police department,” Ramirez said. “Chief Sellers has already been criticized for not being public enough on the death of Kelly Thomas, and his retirement will no doubt pave the way for further criticism.”
Ramirez also said he hopes the public will continue pushing for more information about what happened the night Kelly Thomas was beaten.
Felz said the police department’s main goal is to serve the city of Fullerton.
“Our goal here is to operate the city and provide for a good police department,” he said.
Hughes said the police officers in the department are great at their job.
“I think we have one of the finest police departments in Southern California and some of our police officers are … the best in Southern California,” Hughes said. “I’m very proud of them and we are moving forward and looking forward to what the future brings us.”