The custom was so exclusive, some officers involved in fatal shootings were never told of its existence. But senior law enforcement and government officials say everything changed when a police captain tried to end the practice following the fatal shooting of year-old Willie McCoy in February The captain who pushed for an investigation, John Whitney, would soon be out of a job.
He filed a retaliation claim against the city in March. More than a third of those had participated in two or more.
City of vallejo human resources
The department employs about sworn personnel. This article is based on interviews with more than 20 current and former government officials as well as public employment data, post-shooting investigative findings, court and other public records, archived news s, and hundreds of photographs taken before and after fatal shootings. Many of those interviewed spoke on condition of anonymity to describe sensitive discussions between and within their agencies. Several expressed ificant concerns about retaliation.
Open Vallejo reached out individually to each officer named in this story, most of whom either declined to comment or did not respond. Of the 51 current and former Vallejo police officers who have been involved in fatal shootings sinceat least 14 had their badges bent by a colleague afterward, sources familiar with the tradition confirmed. One source told Open Vallejo the could be much higher.
Vallejo Police Department. Kenney and McCarthy declined to comment.
In addition, Vallejo officers typically wear work uniforms bearing an embroidered patch in the course of their normal duties. Nobody said anything back then.
And although Sampayan said City Manager Greg Nyhoff had been informed of the custom, Nyhoff denied knowledge through his deputy. Becerra added a separate criminal probe on July 17, after officers destroyed key evidence in the killing of year-old Sean Monterrosa last month.
Intervention by the attorney general comes amid a cascade of troubling revelations over the culture within the departmentwhose roughly officers kill more people per capita than all but two other cities in California, a investigation by NBC Bay Area found. Current and former employees describe a department where bullies thrive, whistleblowers are dealt with harshly, and the pressure to shoot and kill civilians is strong.
After several failed attempts to get a response, the author of the s addressed the subject of this story directly. Sources say not every officer who kills is invited to participate in the Badge of Honor ritual. The vetting process is stringent, if straightforward.
Those who kill meet its first requirement. Those who can be trusted not to talk fulfill the second. The actual bending of badges occurs there or at roll call, an official law enforcement briefing that takes place at the beginning or end of a shift.
When honking car horns failed to rouse McCoy, a restaurant employee calledseeking help. Standing inches from the car, their Glock 17 pistols pointed at McCoy, they noted a gun in his lap. Officer Mark Thompson soon arrived.
Thompson shot a man, who survived, in The next year, he Tased another man to death. He has at least one bend in his badge, according to two sources familiar with the matter. Officers shone their weapon-mounted flashlights into the vehicle for the next two minutes before McCoy, who appeared to be asleep or nearly so, reached up with his right hand and scratched his left shoulder.
Patzer, Thompson, Romero-Cano, and Eaton began yelling commands. Seconds later, the officers fired 54 rounds at McCoy.
He ran up behind Glick and fired one. For this, McMahon would collect his second bend in less than a year, law enforcement sources told Open Vallejo. McMahon collected his first bend, sources say, for killing Ronell Foster after a brief foot chase on the night of Feb. Foster rode away, fell off his bicycle and ran. McMahon chased Foster into the courtyard of a building on Carolina Street, where he struck Foster repeatedly with his duty flashlight. Foster broke free, turned, and tried to get away. McMahon fired seven rounds, striking Foster in the back and the back of his head.
McMahon denied his badge is bent through his attorney, Justin Buffington. Krishna Abrams, who was elected district attorney incleared McMahon of wrongdoing in January. Her office denied knowledge of the badge-bending. Nobody brought that to us. But Abrams participated in meetings where the custom was discussed months before clearing McMahon, according to two high-ranking law enforcement officials who work at different agencies.
The Foster and McCoy shootings troubled some members of the department. They believed that if officers had taken cover and used time and distance to their advantage, McCoy could have been taken safely into custody. It was only the second time video of a Vallejo police shooting had ever been publicly disclosed.
As pressure mounted from within and outside the department, Chief Andrew Bidou told Whitney, the captain who would soon become a whistleblower, to address the badge-bending at a meeting with command staff. When it came time to discuss the badges, Bidou stood up, led civilian staff out of the room, and did not return, Whitney said. Whitney told Open Vallejo that he addressed the badge-bending with those in attendance, which included all officers above the rank of corporal.
The chief ordered the badges returned to the officers, who were instructed to fix them.
It is not known whether any officers actually did. Quintana denied knowing about the bent badges.
Interim Chief Allio also knew about the badge-bending, Sampayan said. Two senior government officials independently confirmed that Allio was briefed while serving as interim chief in Vallejo recently brought Allio back to serve as interim assistant police chief. But the only person disciplined over the scandal was Whitney. He was fired in August of last year, after nearly 20 years with the department. The department opened an internal affairs investigation into allegations that he improperly handled information.
Though he was cleared of those allegations, he was terminated for removing family photographs and other personal data from his work phone during the investigation, according to a claim he filed with the city on March 24, a first step before filing a lawsuit. Support Us Go.