The Vallejo Police Officers’ Association Monday slammed a proposed “declaration of emergency” by the Vallejo City Manager and Police Chief, calling it “illegal and dangerous to citizens, public safety, police and the rule of law.”
“The City has placed a ‘declaration of emergency’ on the City Council agenda for Tuesday, October 6, that seeks to give unprecedented powers to the City Manager to circumvent state and local laws and regulations,” the VPOA said in a press statement. “The City claims the declaration is necessary to deal with the current crime wave, which necessarily concedes that the City’s neglect and mismanagement has resulted in conditions of disaster or extreme peril to the safety of all residents.”
California Globe has learned that instead of adding more police officers to address the rise in crime, Vallejo Police Chief Shawny Williams, and Vallejo City Manager Greg Nyhoff proposed the emergency declaration. The VPOA says “the city just needs to hire more cops, which it has been unable to do for years because it refuses to provide competitive wages and benefits to attract candidates – either entry level or laterals.”
Is this politics or police reforms? Recent polling shows hiring more cops is popular across all racial groups. “Civis Analytics ran a mid-January poll on a range of policing subjects and shared the results with Vox — finding that extra policing is broadly popular across racial groups and that most African Americans and Latinos express favorable views of their local police,” Vox recently reported.
The proposed emergency declaration “would allow the city to bypass all civil service rules and other regulations to give the City Manager authoritarian powers until the City itself declares that the so-called emergency is over,” the VPOA said.
The police officers association said “the city took funds away from hiring budgeted police officer positions to instead hire a $500,000 a year Assistant Police Chief, answerable to the Chief of Police.”
“We would rather have funds allocated toward staffing basic police functions, such as patrol, instead of continuing to add more layers of administrative bureaucracy, the VPOA said. “The VPOA stands ready to work collaboratively with city leadership to bring meaningful change to protect our community and our police officers,” the Times Herald reported in September.
The Vallejo Police Officers Association argues that crimes will be prevented and halted by having more cops on the streets. This is supported by many studies, including a Brookings study from 2007: “It is in our view no coincidence that violent crime rates were declining during the 1990s when the number of police patrolling U.S. streets was on the rise,” Brookings said.
VPOA says the Vallejo police department needs 180 officers and has half of the police officers necessary to impact rising crime in the city. The Vallejo PD was decimated in 2008 when Vallejo filed for bankruptcy and cut its police force from 158 down to less than 75 officers. VPD is up to 108 police officers, but still 80-100 short based on the level of crime in the city, sources said.
Unless more officers are hired, the VPOA says Vallejo may have a record year for murders.
Brookings noted the successful federal anti-crime measures of the 1990s: the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Community Policing Services (COPS) program. The program, authorized by the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, provides grants to state and local police to hire additional officers and adopt aspects of “community policing.”
Community policing led to less crime.
In a recent article for Vox, Matthew Yglesias acknowledges this: “Solid data suggests that even if you take a realistic view of the police, spending money to hire more police officers — an idea espoused by both Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama — is a sound approach to the multifaceted problem of criminal justice. More police officers, in particular, doesn’t need to mean more arrests and more incarceration. More beat cops walking the streets seems to deter crime and reduce the need to arrest anyone. And some of the best-validated approaches to reducing excessive use of force by police officers require departments to adopt more manpower-intensive practices.”
“The City can’t declare an emergency when they are the one that caused the emergency. The City’s incompetent leadership has mismanaged Vallejo for the past decade. Now their solution is to declare an emergency and give unprecedented powers and authority to themselves, the people that created the situation,” members of the VPOA said in their press statement.
Independent Assessment of the Vallejo Police Department
In May the OIR Group completed a report on the Vallejo Police Department: Independent Assessment of Operations, Internal Review Systems, and Agency Culture. The OIR Group came up with 45 improvements, all but four the VPOA was in agreement with.
In June, Police Chief Shawny Williams “delivered a presentation to the Vallejo City Council and community members during a virtual Special Council Meeting, outlining a plan for improving the Vallejo Police Department and implementing 21st Century Policing,” Public CEO reported. “Chief Williams’ plan followed a presentation by OIR Group representative Michael Gennaco, summarizing the findings and recommendations based upon the consulting group’s assessment of VPD policies and practices.”
If “21st Century Policing” rings a bell, it was created by executive order by President Barack Obama in 2014, ostensibly in response to the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri following the shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer.
However, the ACLU describes “21st Century Policing” as, “A reimagined way of policing in the U.S. must include less police power and responsibilities, reduced budgets, and a shift to ensure ‘[officers] don’t come into regular, unnecessary contact with community members.'”
California Globe has learned that morale at the Vallejo Police Department is low, and especially now that they think the Chief is bringing in Assistants loyal to him and not to boost their ranks. And now many police officers are concerned that the City Council will pass the emergency declaration.
California Globe emailed twice, the offices of Vallejo City Manager Nyhoff and Chief of Police Williams and asked about the proposed “declaration of emergency.”
We did not hear back from either office. However, we were able to speak with a Vallejo police department public information officer who acknowledged the “huge increase in crime,” and said “behind the numbers are people.” She said there is “an ongoing effort to get resources so families won’t suffer.”
California Globe asked if the emergency declaration is expected to free up additional funding, but she did not know. “There is a process in place – it’s designed so progress isn’t held up,” she added.