A former Vallejo police captain was ousted after alleging that officers were bending their badges to celebrate fatal shootings, but he just got a $900,000 settlement, and it now appears the allegation was true.
In the wake of the 2020 Vallejo police shooting of unarmed Sean Monterrosa (and the department's subsequent destruction of evidence in that case), we heard a truly stomach-churning allegation. A whistleblower within that police department said that officers were bending points on their star-shaped badges to celebrate fatal shootings of suspects, and the website Open Vallejo that broke the story added they also celebrated these horrid events with beers and backyard barbecues.
KTVU points out that there was an investigation into those whistleblower claims by then-Vallejo PD captain John Whitney, and the investigation did indeed show ten officers’ star-shaped badges had bent corners. But KTVU also reports that then-Vallejo police chief Andrew Bidou ordered those badges returned to the officers, because “he was concerned the cost of replacing the badges would raise suspicion.”
It’s one badge, what can it cost? Ten dollars?
Captain Whitney was curiously fired from the force after lodging the badge-banding allegations. But he’s won in the long run, as KGO reports Whitney has received a $900,000 settlement from the City of Vallejo over the matter, apparently having proven he was fired in retaliation.
That report is based on the claim of Whitney’s attorney, as the settlement was discussed in a closed-door meeting of Vallejo City Council. But Open Vallejo has confirmed that settlement with sources with direct knowledge, and that Whitney had also brought to light charges of officers’ time card fraud and cheating on promotional exams.
But were the badge-bending allegations true? We don’t know for certain as the City of Vallejo is determined to keep an internal report on the matter private. But KGO has been on a warpath trying to confirm the validity of the claim, and we can sure read between the lines of what they found.
Solano County District Attorney Krishna Abrams said in a statement to KGO’s Melanie Woodruff that “A thorough investigation into the alleged badge bending by officers of the Vallejo Police Department has been completed by an independent third party. None of the findings in the investigation gave rise to criminal liability.” That is a non-denial, people.
And one of the badge-bending officers’ attorneys told KGO, "The officers had to confront a lethal force incident, and it was a way of acknowledging that." Certainly seems we have an admission there.
As Open Vallejo explains, this settlement is not the end of the scandal. The badge-bending could taint the credibility of several officers’ testimony in current and even previously prosecuted cases that could be reopened. And it could lead to federal oversight of the beleaguered department, just as we’ve seen with the Oakland Police Department.
While the Vallejo City Council meeting at which the settlement was discussed was a closed-door session, Open Vallejo adds that protesters rallied at City Hall before and during the meeting, demanding the internal police report be released publicly. The ACLU is also suing to make the badge-bending report public.