Vallejo police union calls proposed public safety emergency an ‘illegal power grab’

by John Glidden | Oct. 5, 2020

The Vallejo Police Officers’ Association (VPOA) is calling a proposed move by the city of Vallejo to declare a local public safety emergency as an “illegal power grab,” according to a statement issued by the union on Monday.

The seven-person Vallejo City Council will be asked Tuesday to proclaim a local emergency freeing up Vallejo police Chief to hire “needed management personnel without regard to the normal civil service process” and “allow the implementation of reform policies without the advance requirement to meet and confer which can delay implementation by many months,” according to a city staff report from interim City Attorney Randy Risner.

City officials say the proclamation is needed as Vallejo faces increasing crime, scandal within the Vallejo Police Department, and more than two dozen use-of-force lawsuits, which threaten to deplete the city’s coffers.

The unsigned union statement said the proposed action will create a dictatorship in the city.

“This so-called declaration of emergency should cause everyone grave concern. The City effectively seeks to set aside due process, Civil Service Rules, and established law to create a dictatorship in response to its own administrative failures,” the statement reads. “This is a dangerous, illegal power grab concocted by the City’s administration that violates laws, public safety and everyone’s rights as citizens and employees of the City of Vallejo.”

The city said the emergency powers granted to Williams would help address the rising crime rate. Through early October, the city has experienced more than 350 shootings with almost two dozen homicides.

“The reason Vallejo is awash in crime is that the City has starved the department of necessary funds to hire patrol officers to protect citizens,” the VPOA added.

Officials noted the crush of excessive force lawsuits against the city’s police department could financially hurt Vallejo over the coming years. Risner warned that it may cost the city $50 million to settle the remaining lawsuits. After the city’s insurance pays its portion, Vallejo could still be on the hook to pay $15 to $20 million of that total, he added.

Vallejo is currently defending itself in 23 federal civil rights lawsuits. In early September, the city agreed to a $5.7 million settlement with the family of Ronell Foster, the 33-year-old man shot and killed by a Vallejo police officer in February 2018. The city is required to pay $500,000 of that amount with the balance paid for by the city’s insurance pool.

Independent newsroom Open Vallejo first reported in July that Vallejo police officers would have the tips of their star-shaped badges bent following their involvement in a fatal shooting. An investigation into the badge-bending has been launched.

VPOA is also threatening legal action to block the emergency action.

This wouldn’t be the first legal action taken by the union this year. Weeks after the fatal officer-involved shooting of Sean Monterrosa, the VPOA filed a temporary restraining order in an attempt to prevent the city from releasing the name of the officer involved in the June 2 shooting.

Multiple media outlets reported Vallejo det. Jarrett Tonn fired five rounds through an unmarked police vehicle, striking Monterrosa once in the neck. Officers were reporting to calls of looting at the Vallejo Walgreens on Redwood St.

The Solano County Superior Court case is ongoing.

In early August, Open Vallejo reported that the union filed an unfair labor complaint alleging the city unlawfully hired a civilian to act as police department spokesperson.

The union also complained that the department restricted an administrative sergeant’s duties and hired several temporary employees to perform the tasks by the sergeant.

VPOA President Lt. Michael Nichelini was placed on paid administrative leave recently in connection with the destruction of evidence in the Monterrosa shooting.

The Vallejo City Council will meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday via teleconference.

Members of the public may provide public comments during the meeting via Zoom:
https://ZoomRegular.CityofVallejo.net
Option to join by phone: Dial (669) 900­6833; Enter meeting ID: 914 0075 0676#
Press *9 to digitally raise your hand from the phone.

For additional instructions on how to speak during public comment, please visit, http://www.cityofvallejo.net/publiccomment

There are three different ways the public can view the meeting: Watch Vallejo local channel 28; stream from the city website: http://www.cityofvallejo.net/Streaming; join the Zoom webinar: https://ZoomRegular.Cityofvallejo.net.

Published by John Glidden

John Glidden is a freelance journalist reporting on the city of Vallejo. The native Vallejoan also covers the local school district, Vallejo elections, and public safety.

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