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Vallejo Declares Public Safety Emergency After Alarming Spike In Crime During The Pandemic; 'It's A Very Brave Step For All Of Us'

VALLEJO (KPIX) - With a unanimous vote, the Vallejo City Council has declared a public safety emergency giving unprecedented powers to the City Manager to get around local laws and regulations to fight crime.

Council members were also give 72 hours to submit further proposals to City Manager Greg Nyhoff who will return will with a list of those proposals in 2 weeks.

"It's a very brave step for all of us, but it's something that needed to be done," Vallejo Mayor Bob Sampayan said after the vote.

The Vallejo Police Chief says he has seen a 300% increase in crime since the pandemic began and supports the declaration of emergency. The Police Officer Association says the declaration will do nothing to address crime on the streets.

"The issues need to be addressed, it cannot be ignored," said City Manager Greg Nyhoff at the special City Council meeting Tuesday night.

Nyhoff unveiled his proposal to declare a public safety emergency in Vallejo. The city says there have been 22 homicides so far this year, compared to 9 at this time, in 2019. There were 358 shooting victims, putting Vallejo on pace to have its highest shooting rate ever.

"At this time we have a current crisis. I need an executive team to lead the reforms that citizens are demanding," says Vallejo Police Chief Shawny Williams.

That team will be made up of an Assistant Chief and Captains. They will help to provide data to the State Attorney General and the Department of Justice for the high number of lawsuits the City faces for use of force by officers. Most recently, a Vallejo Police officer fatally shot Sean Monterrosa while responding to a looting call.

Peter Hoffmann, the Counsel to the Vallejo Police Officer's Association says adding those positions only takes away dollars from the streets.

"This is a manufactured emergency. Crime is at a high level in the City of Vallejo but the action they are taking has nothing to do with public safety," says Hoffman.

Vallejo residents who called into the special meeting shared their concerns about how a state of emergency would impact crime in the city. One caller called for a independent Federal Investigator and a public oversight committee. Another questioned giving unprecedented power to the City Manager saying, "The thought of giving him more power is frightening."

The Vallejo Police Officers' Association says it will challenge this declaration in court and pursue all legal avenues.

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