The Vallejo police chief announced that he’s launching an inquiry after a former member of the Vallejo Police Department command staff said he was fired after he tried to stop a tradition where officers bent the corners of their badges to mark people they killed.
The story comes to light following a long investigation by online newspaper Open Vallejo.
Chief Shawny Williams said that celebrating the killing of a human being is never acceptable and he’s deeply disturbed by these allegations.
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“I’m doing an official inquiry into the allegations,” Williams said. “The inquiry will help me understand the culture of the department in a greater way and take corrective action.”
Former Police Captain John Whitney said he was seeking corrective action and was fired for it. Through his attorney he said he learned about the “badge bending” practice following the deadly shooting of 20-year-old Willie McCoy in a drive-through Taco Bell in February 2019. McCoy was asleep at the window with a gun in his lap.
The attorney for the family of McCoy, Melissa Nold, said the Vallejo Police Department operates like a gang.
“These sort of gang culture things, notches on your belt, doing something to commemorate harming people, it’s gang culture,” she said.
McCoy’s brother Kori is not surprised by the allegation.
“We called it an execution, what happened to lil Willie,” he said. "The Vallejo Police Union is the strongest entity and the most powerful entity in the City of Vallejo and they have been calling the shots in that city for close to two decades."
Vallejo Police Union President Michael Nicholini is on leave and under investigation for destroying evidence from a controversial police shooting. He said he has no knowledge of badge bending being a practice of Vallejo officers.
“All of these recent allegations of wrongdoing are being fabricated to drive a narrative that doesn’t exist,” he said.
Williams said he will start with the internal inquiry which could turn into an official investigation if enough evidence is found. He is not ruling out a third party investigation.