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A protest held outside Tuesday’s Vallejo City Council meeting erupted inside the chambers as well as the body prepared to discuss acquiring a $30 million dollar loan to secure a controversial new police station.
The protesters opposed moving the police department into the new building, but they also demanded to see a report made by an independent investigator into the department’s practice of “badge bending,” where officers bent the tips of their badges after shooting suspects. Chief Shawny Wiliams ordered the report in 2020 and it was completed by September of last year, but has yet to be released.
Family members of people who had been killed by Vallejo Police officers were in attendance at the protest, as well as attorney Melissa Nold, who has represented families impacted by the VPD.
On Tuesday’s agenda, the council was to decide whether to fund money to retrofit a nearly 60,000 square-foot building along the waterfront for use as a new police headquarters. Supporters of the move see it as an essential step to elevate the embattled department out of its cramped, decrepit compound in the center of town and into a model of “21st Century policing.” Opponents say the city can’t afford it and that putting a police station in one of the most visible and beautiful areas of the city sends the wrong message.
At the end of the meeting that ran until 2:40 a.m. on Wednesday morning, the council voted 6-1 to put off any decisions about a new police headquarters until after more community engagement can take place as well as vetting for alternate sites. The next meeting to discuss the station will take place April 12, at which time a committee will have been selected to oversee the process.
At several points during the meeting protestors interrupted the business at hand and demanded to see the badge bending report, prompting the council to take a recess and the mayor, Robert McConnell, to leave the meeting to talk with protesters out in the hallway. Family members of Willie McCoy, a young man who was shot and killed by police, berated Chief Williams about the unreleased badge bending report and for the six officers that riddled McCoy with 55 bullets as he woke up from sleep in a Taco Bell drive-through in 2019.
Public comment about the police station was overwhelmingly against the new station, with 46 people expressing opposition to the project and three in support. At least three council members would have voted “no” on the loan, with three more seeming to waffle in their once strong support for it. Councilmember Hakeem Brown was the only member who supported the new station.