VALLEJO (CBS SF) — The Vallejo Police Department announced Thursday it supports the “8 Can’t Wait” policy initiatives formed in response to the police killing of George Floyd amid the growing Black Lives Matter movement.
The department has long been criticized for a history of police abuse accusations and a series of fatal officer-involved shootings, including the latest of 22-year-old Sean Monterrosa. He was killed earlier this month by an officer arriving at a Vallejo looting scene who fired five times through a police car windshield at Monterrosa when he thought the hammer in his waistband was a gun.
Vallejo police released a statement listing the department’s policies it says aligns directly with 8 Can’t Wait campaign’s list of eight police use-of-force policies it demands all police departments adopt. The campaign was launched days after the killing of George Floyd by Campaign Zero, an activist group launched in 2015 to push proposals aimed at reducing police violence.
Shawny Williams, serving as Vallejo’s police chief since last year, talked to a virtual town hall meeting Thursday night.
He did not directly address the “8 Can’t Wait” reforms, but the chief did reveal that while Vallejo officers have taken de-escalation training for years, there was no written policy requiring them to use de-escalation until just a few months ago in February.
“For accountability and oversight, it needs to be clearly written in a policy,” Chief Williams said.
“But if you look at the record of Vallejo PD, there’s more escalation than de-escalation,” said civil rights attorney John Burris who represents several families who are suing Vallejo over police shootings.
Burris said he hopes the chief’s words will be followed by actions.
“It’s one thing to have a policy, it’s another to use it and then ultimately to be held accountable,” Burris said.
The 8 Can’t Wait policy initiative requires police departments to:
- ban chokeholds & strangleholds
- require de-escalation
- require a warning before shooting
- require exhausting all alternatives before shooting
- implement a duty to intervene when other officers use excessive force
- ban shooting at moving vehicles
- require a use-of-force continuum
- require comprehensive reporting
According to the department, its current officer policy manual takes into account most of the eight initiatives. One of the initiatives, the Use-of-Force Continuum that creates clear restrictions on the use of each police weapon and tactic, is not addressed specifically; the department said use-of-force practices have evolved and that the department provides guidelines for the reasonable use of force.
“While there is no way to specify the exact amount or type of reasonable force to be applied in any situation, every member of this department is expected to use these guidelines to make such decisions in a professional, impartial and reasonable manner,” the department said.
Vallejo police said the department was seeking community feedback on a police reform plan following an evaluation by an outside consultant. Members of the public were invited to visit the Open City Hall platform, between now and July 31, 2020, to see the proposed improvement plan and submit their feedback.
Wednesday, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra declined to independently investigate the fatal shooting of Monterrosa. Days after Monterrosa’s death, Becerra announced his agency would do a comprehensive review of the Vallejo Police Department’s use of deadly force policies.
Becerra’s office said the review would aim to improve the department’s use-of-force procedures, anti-bias and community policing and accountability by focusing on training, policy and transparency, as well as repairing the loss of public trust.
“Our communities are safer when our police departments can build public trust through good policies, practices, and training. This review and reform agreement we announce today with the City of Vallejo represents a critical step the Vallejo Police Department must take to build trust with people who have lost faith in them,” Becerra said in the release. “When our communities speak up, we must listen — and, in recent days, people across California and the nation, and in Vallejo have bravely come together to make their voices heard. This is only a first step in our broader fight for racial justice. We must all do our part, and we must do it now.”