Whistleblower: Police Officers Celebrated Shooting People With Badge-Bending, BBQs
from the jesus-fucking-christ-can-you-try-not-being-awful-just-for-a-moment dept
There’s a lot of competition for Worst Police Force in America. The NYPD is known for its casual approach to human life and its antagonistic approach to public records requesters. The Chicago PD operated its own black site to separate residents from their rights while interrogating them. The Pasco County Sheriff’s Department thinks it should be in the business of turning students into criminals. The list goes on and fucking on.
Enter the Vallejo (California) Police Department — one that has apparently gamified the shooting of residents.
For a generation, a secretive clique within the Vallejo Police Department has commemorated fatal shootings with beers, backyard barbecues, and by bending the points of their badges each time they kill in the line of duty, an investigation by Open Vallejo has found. The custom was so exclusive, some officers involved in fatal shootings were never told of its existence.
First you have to shoot someone. Then the others who are in on this have to determine whether you can be trusted.
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.
Open Vallejo cites the controversial shooting of Willie McCoy as the impetus for this anonymous whistleblowing. McCoy was shot by Vallejo police officers in a Taco Bell drive-thru, where he had apparently passed out. Restaurant employees called the PD, which sent officers to perform a wellness check. Instead of seeing whether anything was wrong with McCoy, officers surrounded the car and killed McCoy when he awoke and moved one arm towards his shoulder. Vallejo officers fired 55 rounds in less than 3.5 seconds, killing McCoy.
It wasn’t the first time Vallejo cops emptied their magazines into someone they were supposed to be arresting or helping. At the tail end of a chase involving an alleged robbery suspect, Vallejo officers shot the suspect — who was carrying a knife and slowly moving towards them — 41 times.
According to Open Vallejo’s source, one of McCoy’s killers — Officer Ryan McMahon — got a bend on his “star” for this shooting. This would be his second “bend” in less than a year.
Vallejo police officers love using their guns to solve problems. Even if you doubt the anonymous whistleblower’s claims of in-house celebrations for shooting citizens, this statistic is chilling:
At the time of [Captain John] Whitney’s firing, nearly 40% of officers on the force had been in at least one shooting, Open Vallejo research shows. More than a third of those had participated in two or more. The department employs about 100 sworn personnel.
That’s well above the 27% of officers who have self-reported firing their weapons in the line of duty. This disparity begs the “chicken or egg” question. Are Vallejo cops violent because there are informal rewards for being violent? Or did this streak of violence lead to the unofficial rewarding of shooting people?
The captain namechecked in this quote was forced out of the department after opening an investigation into the shooting of Willie McCoy. Vallejo’s police culture doesn’t welcome internal or external scrutiny — like pretty much every other law enforcement agency in the nation.
Captain Whitney’s whistleblowing didn’t start there. It wasn’t just the Willie McCoy shooting. It was also the blowback from another Vallejo PD failure — one ignored off by officers and supervisors, including the then-head of the PD.
[Current police union president Mat] Mustard was the lead detective on the 2015 Denise Huskins kidnapping case Vallejo police mistakenly called a hoax.
Whitney says he was in the room when Chief Bidou allegedly instructed Lt. Kenny Park before a now infamous press conference.
“The fact that we’ve essentially wasted all of these resources for really nothing is upsetting,” said Lt. Park during the 2015 presser.
“Chief Bidou told Lt. Park to burn that b****,” said Whitney.
Huskins recorded this exclusive statement for ABC7 News: “In their eyes, if you’re a woman – you’re another “bit**” to burn; if you’re a person of color – you’re another ‘criminal’ to kill. It’s horrific, and the community of Vallejo deserves better.”
That’s the mindset of this PD, which has terrorized residents for years under the guise of preserving law and order. This is the way it has always been.
The failure to hold police officers accountable has been an issue in Vallejo for as long as anyone can remember. According to confidential city documents, twenty-five years ago one officer shot another while drinking in a bar, and wasn’t fired. A cop with a drug problem kept his job even after he was caught stealing from evidence lockers and was arrested for prescription fraud. Twenty years ago, a lieutenant told a new officer named Joseph Iacono that, when a suspect runs away, the officer should use enough force to put the man in the emergency room. To see if Iacono could fight, he was placed in a holding cell with an uncoöperative suspect. Iacono is now the department’s Lead Force Options Instructor and, according to the documents, likes to say, “It can’t be awful if it’s lawful.”
The Vallejo PD has cost city residents $16 million in the last ten years. This may not seem like much when compared to the amounts racked up by law enforcement agencies in large cities like Chicago and New York City. But when broken down to a per officer cost, Vallejo takes the lead in costing those paying their salaries the most. And — despite actions taken by the city’s insurer — police officers continue to make things worse for those that manage to survive their violence.
Police violence has cost the city so much money that, in 2018, the statewide insurance pool that helped pay its legal fees took the unprecedented step of raising Vallejo’s annual deductible, from five hundred thousand dollars to $2.5 million, prompting the city to find another insurer. Vallejo is currently facing at least twenty-four use-of-force cases, which it estimates could cost some fifty million dollars.
Even if Vallejo officers aren’t bending their badges in celebration of shooting citizens, they’re still shooting citizens far more often than cops in other departments. A lot of whistleblowing has occurred over the years in relation to this department. And so far, it hasn’t changed the culture.
The Vallejo PD is out of control. Swapping parts out isn’t going to change it. There’s a new deputy chief helping preside over Vallejo’s squad of uniformed killers but no one should be holding their breath waiting for internal reform. The “new” sub-boss is the same as the old boss: a department rehire. Joseph Kreins presided over the department as chief from 2012-2014. Dusting off someone who failed to control a department for two years doesn’t change anything. The city’s cops will continue to kill and maim until someone dares to rein them in.
And it appears no one will — at least not immediately. Between retrofitting a deputy chief and pretending state AG Xavier Becerra — the same AG who fought a new police accountability law in court — will get to the bottom of the PD’s endemic violence problem, city residents haven’t been given anything to hope for. The shootings will continue until law enforcement morale improves.