Southern California breaking news and trends

Fullerton considers dismantling police department and letting others police their streets

Joshua Sudock, Orange County Register, Pool photo

Fullerton may disband its police department. The department's been under fire since the death of Kelly Thomas. Here, Ron Thomas, Kelly Thomas' father, speaks to the media after a judge ordered two Fullerton police officers to stand trial in the death of his son.

The Fullerton City Council Tuesday will decide whether to authorize a study looking into dismantling the city's police department. The study would look into options like consolidating policing in North Orange County and contracting with the Orange County Sheriff's Department.

Fullerton police came under heavy criticism after the beating death of Kelly Thomas last year. Three of the six officers involved in Thomas' death have since left the force.

But the move seems most motivated by finances: the 144-person department costs about $37 million a year to operate. More and more small cities are looking at their public safety services as financial liabilities, especially pension costs.

Another cost consideration with police departments is liability claims from car crashes, injuries, wrongful deaths and employment suits. Fullerton's liability costs were not immediately available.

If Fullerton does decide to contract with the OC Sheriff's Department, the city will join Yorba Linda, which made the switch this year, reportedly saving the city $2 million a year in operating costs.

Any change would not come until at least 2014. KTLA reports that's when the current police contract expires, though the union has an option to extend for an additional year. 

Tuesday's meeting takes place at 6:30 p.m. at Fullerton City Hall.

blog comments powered by Disqus