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The Fullerton City Council is exploring the possibility of outsourcing the city's police department to the Orange County Sheriff's Department. City officials say the move is meant to save money, but some are saying it has more to do with scandals that have surrounded the force, namely the fatal beating of Kelly Thomas in July 2011. Vikki Vargas reports from Fullerton for the NBC4 News at 6p.m. on August 7, 2012.
Residents and councilmembers met late into the night Tuesday to mull whether the Orange County Sheriff’s Department should take over police duties for the city of Fullerton under a proposal being considered by the City Council.
Hundreds of community members attended the meeting, most of them showing their support of the Fullerton police force with blue tshirts emblazoned with the phrase "We love Fullerton Police."
Nearly every commenter spoke out against the proposal, which would only authorize city staff to find out what it would cost to have the sheriff’s department take over policing duties, according to the Orange County Registrar.
Still, such a move would be a first step toward giving up its own department in order to contract with the larger law enforcement agency.
Other Orange County cities, including Yorba Linda, are also considering contracting with the sheriff’s department.
Cities that use the sheriff’s department to provide their police services typically do so in order to save money, said Fullerton City Manager Joe Felz. Police officers currently working for cities that make such a change often continue to serve the same city, but as sheriff deputies rather than local police officers, he said.
Any change in Fullerton would be months away, he said.
Fullerton’s police department has been under pressure over the past year because of the highly publicized beating and death of Kelly Thomas, a homeless mentally ill man.
The incident is not mentioned in the motion before the council Tuesday, and Felz did not comment on whether the Thomas case will factor into the city’s decision.
If passed, the measure would just authorize a look at the costs of making a switch, Felz said.
“It’s primarily a financial analysis right now,” he said.
NOTE: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Brea is considering contracting with the Sheriff's Department.