VALLEJO (KPIX 5) — Vallejo Police Chief Andrew Bidou announced his retirement this week as his department has been facing mounting criticism in recent months over use of force and alleged police misconduct.
But the City of Vallejo says the chief isn’t being forced out. Instead, city leaders say Bidou has been talking about retirement for a year now.
Some community members welcome the news, hoping the change on the top will bring changes to the use of force policy among the rank and file.
“Frankly, good riddance,” said civil rights attorney Melissa Nold, who works at the John Burris law firm in Oakland. The firm alone has five active lawsuits against the department alleging police misconduct.
Nold says the department has “a culture of violence. A lot of people have described [the cops] as cowboys.”
Nold is representing the family of Willie McCoy, who are suing the department. In February, multiple Vallejo police officers shot and killed McCoy at a Taco Bell drive-thru.
Nold is also suing the agency on behalf of Adrian Burrell in a different case that happened in January. A cell phone video shows a police officer detaining the Marine veteran after he refused to quit recording a traffic stop while standing on his porch. Nold says the chief has done nothing to address those use of force allegations.
“We were really disturbed that the way he’s responded to some of the recent incidents, the lack of discipline and retraining,” said Nold. “So we’re open to the possibility of somebody coming in that actually wants to reduce violence against the civilian population.”
The low point in the department came in 2015 when detectives doubted the kidnapping and rape of Denise Huskins in the so-called “Gone Girl” case. It was later found to be true and the city paid out $2.5 million to settle a lawsuit out of court.
Despite those incidents, city leaders stand by Chief Bidou, who was hired in 2014 and currently makes $261,605.80 in base annual salary.
“He’s been looking forward to this time after 31 years in law enforcement. He’s ready to retire,” said Joanna Altman, spokeswoman for the City of Vallejo.
City leaders praise the chief, saying he worked hard to build relationships with communities. Bidou started the “Coffee with a Cop” program in Vallejo where neighbors get to meet and talk to officers over a cup of coffee at local shops. He’s credited with being a key partner in creating a late-night basketball program called IBALL, where cops hoop with teens after school during the summer months.
Bidou also instituted the police body-worn camera program. City leaders believe those are some of the reasons in 2017, the department won the James Q. Wilson, Excellence in Community Policing award from the California Regional Policing Institute. City officials say under his leadership, Vallejo has seen a big drop in homicides in recent years.
“[We are] thrilled for the work that Chief Andrew Bidou has done for the city of Vallejo. We’re sad to see him go, but we knew it was coming,” said Altman.
Chief Bidou’s official last day is April 30th, but it’s believed he’ll stay on until the end of the year to help recruit a new chief and to oversee the transition.