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Vallejo enters police oversight agreement with California DoJ

PIX Now afternoon edition 4-11-2024
PIX Now afternoon edition 4-11-2024 08:18

The city of Vallejo and the California Department of Justice have entered into a settlement agreement that both parties hope is the final plan for oversight of the city's embattled Police Department.

The state DOJ first entered into a memorandum of understanding with the city in June 2020, wherein the Police Department was to implement at least 45 reforms around unlawful uses of force, racial bias, strengthening department accountability systems, and other issues involving the constitutional rights of suspects, to name a few.

The DOJ intervened in the department after multiple uses of force and police shootings plagued the city, most notably the shooting deaths of Willie McCoy in a Taco Bell drive-thru in 2019 and Sean Monterrosa in the parking lot of a Walgreens in 2020.

The original MOU expired last June, and though California Attorney General Rob Bonta's office says Vallejo police had achieved "substantial" compliance with 20 out of the 45 recommendations, the DOJ ultimately concluded that the police had "failed" on several other counts based on "inadequate policies, practices and procedures."

Bonta then entered a more stringent five-year agreement with the department in October 2023 to "bring VPD into alignment with contemporary best practices and ensure constitutional policing," his office said in a news release sent out Thursday.

This agreement needed to be approved by Solano County Superior Court, but instead remained held up for six months and was never signed off on by a judge. Bonta decided to withdraw that agreement and will instead now work with the independent oversight firm Jensen Hughes instead of the court. 

"The settlement agreement with the city of Vallejo and its police department demonstrates commitment to correcting injustices, building trust, and enhancing public safety for the people of Vallejo, by allowing the reforms decided upon in our October 2023 stipulated judgment to move forward immediately, irrespective of court approval," said Bonta.

In the new 60-page agreement between Vallejo and the DOJ, the remaining recommendations from the original MOU are included along with additions, such as strengthening community partnerships such as the new Police Oversight and Accountability Commission, defining the limits of pretextual and investigatory stops, more stringent monitoring of use of force incidents, prohibiting officers from conducting consent searches of detained suspects without probable cause, and improving training, protocols and response for people in mental health crises. 

The DOJ also wants to see marked improvements in policy, follow-through, and the ethical oversight of internal investigations from the Police Department's supervisors and managers. 

"We cannot afford to be complacent," Bonta said in a statement Thursday. "The reforms laid out in the agreement are needed and necessary to continue healing the relationship between law enforcement and the community, and they are needed now. It's past time the people of Vallejo have a police department that listens and guarantees that their civil rights are protected."  

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