The Fullerton Police Department may now be a model for the rest of the nation in using non-lethal force to deal with potentially dangerous members of the public. The changes have been implemented since the tragic death of Kelly Thomas five years ago.
Thomas was a homeless man who had been treated many times for mental illness-related problems. He was beaten to death by Fullerton Police in 2011. Officers seemed to believe that he posed a threat to the public and used deadly force to subdue Thomas who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and had lived on the streets for several years. While none of the officers were convicted in the case, the city did pay several million dollars to the victim’s parents. Perhaps, more importantly, the city has become committed to training its officers in techniques that diffuse violence rather than exacerbate tensions.