VALLEJO, CA - On July 24, the City received notice from the Vallejo Police Officers Association of their intention to release a vote of no confidence in Police Chief Shawny Williams.
"This information doesn't come as a surprise to us. We have known that there have been challenges in the Department," said City Manager Mike Malone. "The leadership in this city is fully aware that there have been difficulties between the Department Leadership and Department Members. However, the City is steadfast in its commitment to departmental reform and to rebuilding relationships within the Department. Ultimately, it boils down to the fact that this community deserves to have a strong relationship rooted in trust with those who are sworn to serve and protect them, and we are committed fully to that goal. Change is sometimes hard, but working positively together, rather than in a divisive manner, is the best way to move forward."
Since 2020, the City of Vallejo, Chief Williams, and the Vallejo Police Department have been on a mission to reform the Department based on the 45 recommendations outlined in the OIR report. There has been a notable shift in the department's metrics; for instance, Use Of Force statistics are down significantly, and these numbers continue to trend down.
Over the last three years, the Vallejo Police Department has made significant strides in achieving the six pillars of 21st Century policing. 21st Century policing is a modernized way of policing that builds trust and legitimacy between a department and the community they serve, creates accountability through oversight and training, and delivers education to officers and community members alike, ultimately resulting in proactive crime-reducing partnerships.
POLICY THAT IMPROVES POLICING AND INCREASES ACCOUNTABILITY
The Department has implemented policy and oversight changes such as the de-escalation policy that guides officers when it is reasonably safe, prudent, and feasible to do so, to attempt to slow down, reduce the intensity or stabilize the situation through de-escalation so that more time, options and/or resources may become immediately available for incident resolution.
There was also a change in the Body-Worn-Camera (BWC) policy that now requires officers to turn on their BWCs (when they receive a call) “when there is a reasonable expectation of an adversarial encounter, violence, interpersonal conflict, use of force, or display of weapons or any time the member believes it would be appropriate or valuable to record an incident.”
After the tragic events that unfolded in Minneapolis, the department banned the use of the carotid and choke holds as a means of control under any circumstances as part of the “8 Can’t Wait” campaign.
NEW TECHNOLOGY AIDS IN CRIME REDUCTION
Additionally, the introduction of new technologies, such as the Flock Automated License Plate Readers (ALPRs), have helped to reduce crime and aid in the apprehension of illegal firearms in the City of Vallejo. Chief Williams has also instituted the installation of dash cameras into all patrol vehicles, again supporting accountability for officers and community members.
NEW WAYS OF RECRUITING
Staffing for police departments across the country is a continual challenge, and the Vallejo Police Department continues to try and address this issue proactively. "It can take up to one year for a newly hired cadet to be placed on the street, and that creates a bottleneck in the available resources because the volume of calls for service hasn't decreased, although I am happy to report that we just hired six cadets from our academy," said Assistant City Manager Terrance Davis. In the last year, Chief Williams and Department staff have worked closely with the City's Human Resources Department to change how the Department recruits cadets and new officers (lateral hires) to bring the department back to a substantial staffing level. “We are aware that having decreased patrol staff can be detrimental for the community and our officers, and we are working diligently to change that,” Davis added.
PROACTIVE COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT
Engagement and partnering with the community also continue to be an important part of the Department's reform. The creation and implementation of the Chief's Advisory Board (CAB) is a prime example of this proactive engagement and community partnership. The CAB is composed of community members and was created to serve as a way for the Chief of Police to collaborate with the community in forming strategies to develop community policing concepts and increase public awareness. The board provides a forum for community discussions with a broad spectrum of viewpoints from community members. Additionally, in 2020 alone, the department engaged in more than 70 community meetings and listening sessions.
The City has also helped to support the reform initiative, most recently with the Police Oversight Model Community Outreach (POM). Led by the City Attorney’s office, the City sought public input on what an effective Oversight Model in the City of Vallejo should look like. The information gathered from these meetings is helping the City to create a Police Oversight Model that is right for the community and department.
City Manager Malone concluded, "We have seen quantifiable progress and accomplishments in our Police Department even amidst the many challenges they face. The City Council and I continue to express our strong support for Chief Williams and the transformational reform initiatives being employed to create a Department that serves the needs and desires of the Vallejo Community. I will be working more closely with the Chief now and in the future to ensure that we ramp up our communications internally and with the public to continue building a solid, trust-fueled relationship with our community. We care deeply about the health and well-being of our officers and the community. Ultimately, we can't do this alone. So we are asking the unions, our community members, and all staff to join forces with us for the betterment of this community and our City."