Fullerton can expect more bad news about its police department by the time an independent investigation is finished, said Mike Gennaco, the man tasked with conducting an examination of the department’s policies and procedures.
Without going into details, Gennaco said in a telephone interview Monday that whenever investigators look deeply at troubled sections of a police department they include other issues to see how they were handled.
Asked if more disclosures are coming, he replied, “Oh, yeah. There’s more. There always is.”
Gennaco was hired by the Fullerton City Council to investigate the 145-member police department after the beating death of mentally ill transient Kelly Thomas.
Thomas went into a coma during the July 5 beating and was pronounced dead five days later. District Attorney Tony Rackauckas charged two of the six officers involved, one with murder and the other with manslaughter.
Gennaco will file three reports on the department. One will be an internal affairs investigation of Thomas’ death. That report will be confidential because state laws and court decisions make it illegal to publicly disclose police personnel issues.
But Gennaco said a second report, which will summarize the non-confidential portions of the internal affairs investigation, will be released publicly.
However, he said, he cannot finish the internal affairs report until Rackauckas turns over the results of his three-month-long investigation.
“Hopefully, we’ll get it soon,” said Gennaco.
Rackauckas’ office did not return calls for comment. The two officers facing criminal charges are on unpaid administrative leave. The other four are on paid leave.
Gennaco’s third report will be an “overarching” examination of the entire department and how it operates.
“Our overview will take us wherever we need to go,” Gennaco said.
Meanwhile, Gennaco, who is the independent investigator for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, has his own issues.
The Los Angeles Times, the American Civil Liberties Union and others in recent weeks have reported that Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies have beaten prisoners, including some who are mentally ill, at the Los Angeles County jails.
And Los Angeles County Supervisors Zev Yaroslavsky and Gloria Molina expressed disappointment in Gennaco’s review system; Yaroslavsky said a separate independent investigation may be necessary. The FBI already is investigating deputies at the jail for misconduct.
“A lot goes on in a closed environment like a jail,” Gennaco said. He is preparing a report for Los Angeles County supervisors that, among other things, will show “a number of deputies have been fired for using too much force,” he added.
Gennaco said proving misconduct when no cameras record incidents is “frustrating. It’s a ‘he said, he said.’ “
Gennaco said he is working to “regain the trust of the supervisors” in Los Angeles County.
In addition to his trust issues, there are questions about how Gennaco is able to work full time for the Los Angeles County sheriff and take on separate investigations like the one he is conducting in Fullerton.
LA Observed reported on an article available only to Los Angeles Daily Journal subscribers that stated Gennaco and his team of seven lawyers have done outside work for at least 10 other cities and counties during the past five years, netting more than $412,000.
Gennaco, who is also a former assistant U.S. attorney, said Monday that he performs his outside work on nights and weekends and does not use his county car and cell phone for the outside work.
— TRACY WOOD
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