Houman Fakhimi

Bad Year for Fullerton Police in Dealing With Orange Country Crimes

It's probably far from a rosy atmosphere at the Fullerton Police Department these days. Some officers have been charged with murder, and another charged with groping women. Adding to the department's woes is the revelation that a squad of officers busted into the wrong house during a raid and never told anyone about it.

Hopefully, prospective jurors out there are taking note that some officers do make mistakes, just like everyone else. Just because they say "this is the person who committed the crime" doesn't mean it's so.

Whether arrested and charged with robbery in Santa Ana or other high-penalty crimes, an experienced Orange County criminal defense attorney must scrutinize all police actions in order to determine if they followed policies and procedures in making an arrest.

Think about the recent alleged actions of Fullerton police officers and the recent injustice in Italy with Amanda Knox being imprisoned for four years for a murder she didn't commit and for which there was little evidence. It should be painfully clear that there are police officers and prosecutors who want an arrest so badly they will act dishonestly and bend the truth in order to get it. And when the news media is involved, their job is intensified and the desire to nail down an arrest becomes that much more of a pressured situation.

Two veteran police officers have been charged in connection with the July death of a homeless man in Fullerton. Both have been placed on unpaid leave after being arrested. One faces charges of second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter and another faces charges of involuntary manslaughter and excessive use of force.

On July 5, four officers were involved in an alleged beating that led to the death of a 37-year-old homeless man, the Los Angeles Timesreports.

In another embarrassing moment for the department, officials are now planning on firing an officer who was allowed to return to work after allegedly groping several women. He was placed on leave in 2008 and returned to work after allegations made by seven women. He was against placed on administrative leave July 9. The city has already paid out $500,000 to settle claims made by two women.

And the hits don't stop coming.

Just recently, the department had to issue an apology because it raided the wrong home during a drug probe. When officers were attempting to perform a search of a home where a person on probation was living, they went into a back alley and entered the wrong gate, leading them to the wrong house. Officers recognized the error immediately, but apparently didn't report the incident right away, the newspaper reports. The department eventually came up with a new policy for handling such incidents, which officials say rarely happen.

While all these incidents certainly don't mean that every police officer makes such mistakes, it means that mistakes do happen. Jurors shouldn't take police officers at their word compared to lay witnesses, including the defendant.

Some might say that the defendant's words shouldn't be trusted because his or her liberty is on the line. Others might point out that officers' jobs are on the line if they fail -- on a grand scale -- to prove a case.