In Vallejo, California, a former police captain accuses a secret ritual of triggering an independent investigation into the city’s established police forces: he says some officers involved in deadly shootings since 2000 have always bent the tips of their star-shaped badges. they killed someone on duty.
Former Vallejo Police Captain John Whitney, a 19-year-old department veteran and former SWAT commander who was fired in August, first described the alleged tradition in an interview released by the Vallejo Open this week.
According to unnatural news, the officers involved in the deadly shootings identified the incidents with a barbecue in the garden and were initiated into a “secret crank”; that included the curvature of one of the tips of their seven-point silver badge. He said he had spoken to more than 20 current and former government officials and examined records and hundreds of photographs taken before and after the fatal shootings. Two officers mentioned in the report denied that they had crooked badges, one of which told the Open Vallejo that it was a “lie”.
Vallejo, a community in the Bay Area with 122,000 people, has been the focus of its high number of fatal police shots – 18 since 2010 – compared to other California cities in recent years. Last month, Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced that the Ministry of Justice would conduct a “wide-ranging review” of the Vallejo police department following lawsuits requiring disproportionate force and demands from residents to externally investigate police acts.
Police Chief Shawny Williams, who became the first African American to lead the unit in November after retiring from former chief Andrew Bidou, said on Friday that he was calling for an investigation outside the country to begin next week, which could take several months. He said the formal investigation followed his initial investigation into the allegations.
“We have received statements from two different sources within the Vallejo police department that the badges have been bent,” Williams said in a statement. “As a result of these very worrying and disturbing allegations, I have asked a third party to conduct an independent external investigation.”
He did not immediately say who would lead the investigation.
According to the Open Vallejo, of the 51 current and former Vallejo officers who have been involved in fatal shootings since 2000, at least 14 have had the badge bent in a “exclusive custom” that even some officers have involved in the fate of the shooting never said they existed.
After his release, Whitney filed an amended right to retaliation against the city in March, but did not mention the tradition of bending badges. Whitney spoke through her lawyer, Alison Berry Wilkinson, who said she planned to file a lawsuit next week for illegal termination, which would include, among other things, what he knew, and called him an informant.
“We are grateful that Chief Williams has condemned this deeply disturbing practice, but we are skeptical because the evidence has since been destroyed, giving the officers involved the opportunity to reject it with impunity,” she said.
Wilkinson said that her client in the department tried to “talk against a negative culture”, including about badges, and was expelled as a result.
Police captains have a “discretionary” job with the ministry, but are preparing a lawsuit because Whitney believes he did not get due process and his “intelligence activities” played a role in his forced departure.
“They must have decided to discourage him because he stood up for what was right,” Wilkinson said.
The city did not respond to Whitney’s request for retaliation, in which he expressed “his professional views on various cases of offenses in the police department.” Whitney said his release was related to an information leak investigation and was accused of mishandling information. Wilkinson said he was fired in the event of a data leak, but Whitney was still fired and told that it had to do with deleting personal data, including family photos, from his work phone.
When Whitney left the department, Vallejo Mayor Bob Sampayan wrote a letter of recommendation, which was also attached to Whitney’s application. “Honestly, I believe that because John was talking about a negative culture in the Vallejo police department, his reputation was polluted by those who did not want to broadcast any dirty laundry,” the letter said.
A city spokeswoman said on Thursday that Sampayan was not available to express what Whitney had described in her claim to retaliation or in the tradition of bending badges.
Efforts to reach retired boss Bidou on Thursday and Friday by telephone were not immediately successful, and an email to the Vallejo Police Association was not immediately returned on Friday. His current employer, Pacific Gas & Electric, declined to make it available to Bidou, but said in a statement that the company “is aware of these serious allegations, which do not reflect the values of our company or the expectations of our employees.”
In a statement, city leader Greg Nyhoff said Sampayan had alerted him last year to “disturbing allegations,” which led him to ask Bidou for a request to bend the badge. The then boss told Nyhoff that he had previously investigated the claim and “it was not substantiated,” Nyhoff said.
“The city takes all claims or credible information regarding a possible violation seriously,” Nyhoff added. “Chief Williams is currently monitoring previous allegations, which are taking all investigative action, and will take appropriate and necessary action based on the information provided.”
Earlier this week, Williams said he would conduct an investigation to “better understand the culture of the department and take corrective action.”
“I want our community to know that it will never be abused under my administration,” he added.
Wilkinson said Whitney learned of the badge bending in April 2019, two months after the fatal shooting of rapper Willie McCoy. 20. McCoy slept in his car in a fast food restaurant, and restaurant workers said they could not wake him. Police said they found his car locked and entrances, and spotted a gun on his lap. While McCoy did not respond, officers on the scene devised a plan to lock their car inside the unit to prevent any uneven movement if it woke up. Finally, they saw McCoy move, according to a video of the bodycam incident.
When McCoy woke up, six officers opened fire with 55 rounds, fearing he had grabbed a gun.
Investigations of officers’ behavior during the shooting remain open.
When Whitney learned of the badge’s bending, “he wanted to investigate at the time and also tried to end and condemn the very worrying process,” Wilkinson said.
Whitney, due to his high position, at the end of one meeting ordered his superiors to inspect the badges and pick them up bent from their subordinates; 10 were obtained, Wilkinson said.
According to Whitney, the badges were returned to Bidou to officers for whose responsibility it would be to replace or repair them, Wilkinson said.
“What happened to these badges is not known to my client,” she added, adding that any information about the alleged usual bending of the badges is now gone.
Michael Nichelini, president of the Vallejo Police Officers’ Association, called the accusation a “ridiculous idea,” saying that any impression that the signs had been intentionally bent was untrue because “they come this way.”
“All these recent attacks on Vallejo police officers are fabricated beds that are pushed to match a story that does not exist,” he said in a statement.
Nichelini has been on leave since 15 July in connection with the destruction of the windshield of a police vehicle, which the ministry has failed to maintain, and in June is considered evidence of the fatal shooting of a 22-year-old man in the presence of an officer. The Becerra bureau announced this month that it would launch an investigation into the destruction of the evidence.
However, his office forwarded to the officials of the City of Vallejo comments on the allegations of the procedure for bending badges.
Sampayan, who left Vallejo’s police department as a sergeant in 2006, said he had recalled an incident during his career when an officer had a curved corner of a badge but did not know what it represented. He told the Vallejo Times-Herald that “there had been” changes “since the procedure was brought to the attention of officials more than a year ago.
“I’m not very happy with what it represents,” he said. “Tout and celebrating that you shot someone is absolutely disgusting. There’s no room for this kind of display.”
Kori McCoy, Willie McCoy’s older brother, said the allegations were not shocked and confirmed that the police department must be “top-down investigated.”
“We said from day one that Willie was executed,” McCoy said.