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Poll: Is a Murder Charge Warranted Against the Officer in the Kelly Thomas Case?

The fatal beating of a schizophrenic homeless man has led to criminal charges against two police officers. Did the district attorney make the right call?

A Fullerton police officer was charged with second-degree murder today in connection with the beating death of a schizophrenic homeless man as he was arrested by six officers. According to investigators, Kelly Thomas died from injuries suffered during his July 5 arrest. A second officer involved in the arrest was charged with involuntary manslaughter.

The decision to file criminal charges against the officers sent shockwaves through the community. For months, supporters of the Thomas family have argued that justice could come only through a murder conviction against the officers. On the other hand, supporters of the officers have cautioned that such a prosecution could have a chilling effect on officers’ ability to protect themselves and the community.

Mike Ruehle September 23, 2011 at 09:25 PM
I agree with pretty much everything you've said. My difficulty is how do you pay for it and where do you draw that line between who is institutionalized and who isn't? And who gets to make that executive decision? The structure of America's laws error on the side of granting guilty people their freedom in order to prevent imprisonment of innocent people. I suspect the same ideal would need to be established for determining who is to be institutionalized.
Shripathi Kamath September 23, 2011 at 10:14 PM
"My difficulty is how do you pay for it and where do you draw that line between who is institutionalized and who isn't? " We pay for it through taxes. Surely there are monies that go to law enforcement for training the police to deal with the mentally ill, imprisoning them, etc. We already pay for some or most of it, but poorly. Who decides? Professionals. Mental health professionals, who know how to deal with the mentally ill, rather than cops. To me it is the same as dealing with animals. WARNING: I am not equating the mentally ill with animals, I am equating the distribution of responsibility between health professionals and law enforcement professionals. Just like today, if we see a coyote loose, we use animal control not cops, we rely on specific professionals instead of the cops. For a fire we rely on firemen, not cops. For handling ruckus crowds after a Lakers championship we use the cops, not our armed forces They are better trained to handle those situations. Likewise, for the mentally ill, we call appropriate mental-health professionals. The police are there (or should be) to protect and serve. Now, I say the above with the caveat or the assumption that we perceive mental illness to be a problem in society that affects us more than just background noise. If we do not feel it is an issue, then of course we shouldn't care about doing any of this. contd...
Shripathi Kamath September 23, 2011 at 10:15 PM
contd... "And who gets to make that executive decision?" We, the People. Like we do directly via propositions or indirectly through our legislators. Today, we have decided that they are to be treated or handled no differently than sane persons. That prison is the place for breaking the law. All I am saying is that we can, if we see this as a problem, instead decide that treatment as recommended by professionals is the better option for all concerned. We, the People want to change how cops should react, we also decide that if they did not act appropriately, there need to be changes. I see this no differently.
Mike Ruehle September 23, 2011 at 11:19 PM
No disrespect intended, but I do not see it that clearly, especially the implementation. I commend your view. However, I believe you are naive to believe MORE taxation and government regulation would solve this issue.
Mike Ruehle September 23, 2011 at 11:39 PM
Maybe Long Beach Police Union (POA) President Steve James can discuss the results of this poll and what it means with his membership during his next union meeting.
Shripathi Kamath September 24, 2011 at 12:01 AM
"No disrespect intended" None taken. Disagreement with stated opinion, without name-calling are always welcome (at least with me). "However, I believe you are naive to believe MORE taxation and government regulation would solve this issue." I have to disagree, considering you have cited nothing more than a belief based on popular bromide. Societal problems of this nature when unchecked need regulation. Nothing else exists to solve them. It is not as if we have free market or other solutions available to take the mentally ill off the streets. So whether by force, education or reform, most problems require money. Taxation is *a* way of getting that money. Another way could be the savings from prevention -- the cost of lawsuits, court times, trials, etc. could be better used. If the individual becomes productive after treatment, he actually could be contributing to the tax base. Now, I hope that you do realize that *an idea in general terms* discussed in the comment sections of an article is not a ready-for-legislation funding and implementation proposal. I'd be naive to claim that, and you'd be naive to assume that. Of course, it presumes that this is a problem important enough for us to be solved, and solved better than it is being today. Clearly if we do not agree then yes, it is moot. If it is, and we haven't explored *how* big it is, then yes, spending tax dollars or passing legislation to address it is wasteful.
tinytom September 24, 2011 at 01:07 AM
Shri, where did you get your dedication to the free market - what, did you take a class or two. Why do you think we're having all these problems now. Hey, people thought the Soviet Union would go on and on.
Shripathi Kamath September 24, 2011 at 01:57 AM
tinytom, I arrived at it through deduction, although I freely admit that I could have deduced it incorrectly. Usually when someone rails against "more taxation and government regulation" these days, it is because they see ____ _______ as the alternative. Will you buy a vowel, or spin? "Why do you think we're having all these problems now." Which ones? There are too many to address. Pick a specific one, and if it is relevant to this topic or the mentally ill, I'll see if I can respond. Otherwise I'll simply take a guess at what you might have been thinking of, and suggest this: http://youtu.be/qOP2V_np2c0 If that does not answer your query, please be specific. "Hey, people thought the Soviet Union would go on and on." People talk about the fall of Rome, and yet Rome is still on the map. Things change. Wish there were simple explanations that also corresponded well with reality. And importantly, verifiable. Observing that a societal problem, something like the mentally ill roaming the streets is not addressed by free market principles is not to be taken as an endorsement for communism, or a kleptocracy for that matter. Likewise, suggesting that more taxation or regulation may be necessary for a specific problem is not a protest against the free market. Both of those would be bad deductions.
tinytom September 24, 2011 at 03:00 AM
Shri, I appreciate your drive to know, but that video is hard to follow, especially as I am enjoying on Old Fashioned cocktail now. One problem may be your equating Capitalism with Free Trade. Capitalism is a good thing, it's when the Capital gets in the hands of a very few through the con of Free Trade, like today, that big problems arise.
met00 September 24, 2011 at 03:28 AM
Define "capitalism". :-) If you mean unfettered capitalism, a system in which everything is "privately owned and operated for profit" then you believe that fire services, police services, the roads, etc. should be privately owned and for profit concerns? If not, then you believe in the concept of public goofs. These are owned by the state for the benefit of the group and are "not for profit". A more socialist model whereby each individual in society purchases a small portion of the cost (taxes) for the goods and services to the benefit of all who need it, even if they don't "use" it themselves.. The question Shri poses is, since the capitalist model has shown that this (managing the mentally challenged) is not profitable, if there is a need to properly deal with the issue do we as a society wish to pay for doing so. This then breaks down into a cost benefit analysis of what are the cost of doing it one way (police/criminal incarceration) verses another (social/medical) are to society and which would be the better way to proceed. Oh, and for clarification, capitalism has NOTHING to do with free trade. Free trade deals with governmental regulations associated to cross-border commerce.
Shripathi Kamath September 24, 2011 at 03:40 AM
@tinytom "One problem may be your equating Capitalism with Free Trade" Yes, if I had done that. Right now the only problem with it is you thinking that I did so. The video was strictly in response to your vaguely posed question about "today's problems", and I acknowledged so myself. The "free market" was the antithesis to "higher taxes and regulation" commonly thrown about today, and was a separate thing. I trust I addressed that. "Free trade" came up in a different conversation between us (Hamilton ring a bell?), I certainly did not bring it up here at all. Or there either. So yes, please enjoy your cocktail. Responsibly.
Shripathi Kamath September 24, 2011 at 03:42 AM
Thanks, met00. Perhaps your comments would have the explanatory power that mine seem to lack.
tinytom September 24, 2011 at 03:51 AM
met00, I think you're referring to Global Corporate Governance. Oh, and by the way, met00 is qute a unique moniker. My support of Capitalism is tempered by the reality that a functioning nation needs control from private interests of it's money supply or credit, (Congress shall regulated commerce). But, globalism has been it, especially since April, 1945 & Nov, 1963.
tinytom September 24, 2011 at 04:01 AM
Shri, are you or are you not a free market disciple or lackey?
met00 September 24, 2011 at 05:14 AM
Met00 (comes from "me too" as when my brother six years my senior got something, well "me too" and the "00" verses 'oo" comes usernames had to be unique when creating accounts on-line) Capitalist has a very specific definition (see David Ricardo, Principles of Political Economy and Taxation (1817) and Karl Marx, The Communist Manifesto (1848)) Capitalism (the word) is attributed to Louis Blanc in 1850. The concept, as defined as owners of the production of goods and services, is not new any more than the concept of communism or socialism are. They are throw offs from the feudal system that came before it (a system that was unsustainable as population increased and came in contact with their neighbors - a totally different discussion). Simplistically stated (without the economics of it...) Capitalism - "survival of the fittest". Communism - "you put in your fair share; you get your fair share". Socialism - "you get a share regardless of your contribution". In the US we have a mixed model where we have both Capitalism and Socialism. When it comes to "public good" these items are socialized (fire/police/education/transportation) but outside of "public good" the model is capitalist. In the US the determination on which model is used is done by a cost/benefit analysis and the plutocracy determines what "public good" will be socialized and how (police/prison .v. medical/social for the mentally ill). A much longer discussion, but I have run out of characters.
tinytom September 24, 2011 at 05:46 AM
mett00, I get the feeling it wasn't easy with a brother 6 years your elder. I think the issue now is nation state system vs global corporatism.
Sea Breeze September 24, 2011 at 06:11 AM
He was not on drugs, the reports came back negative. The restraining order came out of an incident where Kelly stopped taking medication and had an outburst. His criminal record consists of trespassing and nuisance citations, no felonies just normal street-person stuff. Kelly's onset of schizophrenia started in his late teens - before that he was a normal kid. He started wandering away, and when he was convinced to stay home he insisted on sleeping on the floor. Medication helped for awhile but he (like many) did not like the way they made him feel and stopped taking them. As a legal adult there is nothing his parents could do to keep him off the street unless he was a danger to himself or others. They tried many times without success.
Sea Breeze September 24, 2011 at 06:16 AM
We used to house them until the courts ruled you can't house an adult against their will if they haven't committed a crime. Right now body can take them off the street unless they are a danger to themselves or others - and then they can only be held for 72 hours.
Sea Breeze September 24, 2011 at 06:22 AM
Officer Ramos and most the department knew who he was. He's lived on the streets for years. The businesses near the transit stations had been complaining about Kelly and other homeless, but couldn't get them to go away. On the night in question a business owner called the police and said someone was near the cars in the parking lot possibly breaking into them. He probably thought that might get Kelly arrested and out of there. He didn't realize Ramos would show up and send Kelly over the edge.
Nancy Wride (Editor) September 24, 2011 at 06:24 AM
Tinytom, my brother Doug is 6.5 years older than I, and he was a terrific big brother. Still is! But he was not a peer until adulthood. Sea Breeze, I thank you for the Kelly Thomas information, which reads like all kinds of homeless people and their families. It is heartbreaking for all. And apart from this case in particular, I think police have a tremendous burden on them. They are the front line in handling all manner of social challenges that our society can't manage, from addiction to mental illness. They are usually understaffed, and I'm sure many of them want to help those people mentally ill who they can see might be clinging to the edge of their rope.
Sea Breeze September 24, 2011 at 06:26 AM
So far the DA is taking them at face value - they didn't hear what Ramos said so they assumed they were backing up an officer in trouble. But he also said he can add more charges if more information comes to light. The FBI are also conducting an investigation, so is the family and their attorney to go after the city and cops civilly.
Sea Breeze September 24, 2011 at 06:29 AM
Long Beach cops seem to slip under the radar. If Zerby had been shot in Fullerton the citizens would have revolted by now. The Orange County DA conducted their homicide investigation in 11 weeks - how long ago was Zerby shot? With all the bad shootings Long Beach has had since that one the DA's office is going to have quite a backlog...
Nancy Wride (Editor) September 24, 2011 at 06:39 AM
Shore Breeze, I think the numerous videos captured by onlookers has to be a factor in the speed of this case. If you are interested in Long Beach crime and Wilson High School we have another poll for discussion. http://patch.com/A-mrN1
met00 September 24, 2011 at 07:09 AM
The issue today is the fact that we have a plutocracy that is unabashed about using it's power. We have a media that the plutocracy uses to misinform and misdirect the masses. In an almost Orwellian fashion words no longer mean what they should (look no further than Romney saying he is "middle class") and while the plutocracy gets richer, we have been moved to chase the immediate "cheep" while not understanding that the cost for doing so is the ever more weakening of the social fabric that protected us. In the 1920's the plutocracy lost control, and for almost 60 years they struggled to regain it. By 1970 they were back to the top of their game. Today we have a fiscal situation that is effectively worse than that of the 1920's. You want to understand the system? Watch Bullworth (1998). The "Obscenity" rap (which can't be printed here because of size and language) is classic. Not for the rap (which is over the top) but for the raw brutal honesty of our current economic condition (circa 1998, and even moreso true today). Written by Warren Beatty (story and screenplay) and Jeremy Pikser (screenplay), directed and produced by Beatty the movie attempted to get the core story of the plutocracy across, but it was lost in the over the edge multiple story lines for most viewers. [It should be noted that the film "lost money" and was panned in all major reviews by major corporate owned media... I wonder why?]
Mike Ruehle September 24, 2011 at 05:42 PM
In November 2008, the voters of California passed Marsy’s Law and added significant and far-reaching victims’ rights into the California Constitution. Marsy’s Law: “The enactment of comprehensive provisions and laws ensuring a bill of rights for victims of crime, including safeguards in the criminal justice system to fully protect protecting those rights and ensuring that crime victims are treated with RESPECT AND DIGNITY, is a matter of grave statewide concern high public importance. California’s victims of crime are largely dependent upon the proper functioning of government, upon the criminal justice system and upon the expeditious enforcement of the rights of victims of crime described herein, in order to protect the public safety and to secure justice when the public safety has been compromised by criminal activity.” http://voterguide.sos.ca.gov/past/2008/general/text-proposed-laws/text-of-proposed-laws.pdf#prop9
Mike Ruehle September 26, 2011 at 07:34 PM
Judge Erick Larsh ruled that police officer Manuel Ramos is to post $1.0 million bail like any other murderer and not receive special treatment because he is a cop. http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2011/09/kelly-thomas-officer-arraigned.html
clouds September 27, 2011 at 11:05 PM
Police have become idle worshipers where they think with their pen and paper they think with a radio and with flashing lights they think with their gun and their weapons this has all become the way police think. Idle worship is defined anything that you place above your mind and people worship police not because they are good but because they are evil! Sorry and when they get a call it is not a person it is a phone with a phone there is no proof only a space for anything they want to place there, this also applies to pens and there ability to read paper that is sent to them in the form of ones and zero's all of this is not facts but a form of adrenalin from what they want to place their from the chase. it has become a form of anti social behavior and they all do it they all are ordered to do it and it's become common practice for them to believe anything that is written and i am sad to say many things are lies people made to gather money. Not to protect you not to protect and serve what is is supposed to be that is the soul truth about our law! Sorry it has become lawless and unless they start using their minds it will become mother against father sister against brother and even evil replacing good. I wish I was wrong but that is how i see it in this day September 27 th 2011
clouds September 27, 2011 at 11:10 PM
OUR WORTHLESS FBI CANNOT EVEN PROTECT US FROM OUR OWN CRIMINAL GOV!"
clouds September 27, 2011 at 11:49 PM
Also people use this service 911 to get even with people they don't like.
Mike Ruehle October 07, 2011 at 06:52 PM
L.A. County deputy says he was forced to beat mentally ill inmate. http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-honor-recruit-20111007,0,2856002.story

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