(2023-02-05) Senior Officials Ordered Destruction Of Vallejo Police Shooting Evidence
Senior officials ordered destruction of Vallejo police shooting evidence. In January 2021, officials for the city of Vallejo intentionally — and with approval from a senior attorney for the city — destroyed key evidence in multiple police killings and one non-fatal shooting
The city destroyed the records although many were set to be disclosed under California transparency laws — a potential crime, according to a motion filed by this newsroom last month.
the January 2021 purge violated city policy and potentially Vallejo’s agreement with the California Department of Justice.
City Attorney Veronica Nebb said the purge had not been officially approved by her office because additional mandatory steps had not been followed.
the evidence purge in the five cases occurred over the course of nearly two weeks, that Knight seemingly approved it, and that the supervising detective who triggered the cases’ destruction was involved in all of them
Open Vallejo has asked the Solano County judge overseeing the lawsuit, Stephen Gizzi, to order that Vallejo implement measures to prevent improper purges, and to consider referring the matter for criminal prosecution.
“I screamed. I was— I was enraged,” then-public records coordinator Joni Brown testified about her reaction to discovering the evidence was gone. “We’re in a collaborative agreement with DOJ,” she said at a May 5 deposition. “They shouldn’t be deleting anything right now at all.”
The destruction encompassed hundreds of pieces of physical and audiovisual evidence from six police shootings that occurred in 2012 and 2013, two of the department’s bloodiest years in decades.
All six shootings involved at least one officer linked to the agency’s “Badge of Honor” scandal, revealed by Open Vallejo in 2020, in which officers bend the tips of their badges each time they kill in the line of duty.
In December 2020, “concerned about the pace of production” of the subpoenaed records, an attorney with the state DOJ’s Civil Rights Enforcement Section emailed Vallejo officials and asked that they complete production by Feb. 15, 2021. Weeks before that deadline, between January 11 and 20, the records in five of the shootings were destroyed.
The six cases were not destroyed because they were the oldest on file; the city still possessed evidence from earlier police shootings, according to Dailey’s deposition. The purge was also unlikely to have been triggered by a lack of space
*Vallejo changed its retention policy just three weeks before a landmark police transparency law, Senate Bill 1421, made those and other police records public.
On Dec. 11, 2018, the Vallejo City Council changed the retention schedule through its consent calendar, a process generally reserved for non-controversial issues which allows city councils to pass multiple items at once.*
Vallejo Mayor Robert McConnell, who as a councilmember voted in 2018 to change the retention schedule, called the destruction of records “unfortunate” in an interview Saturday.