In a settlement with the city, a former police captain who claimed in a lawsuit that he was let go for reporting corruption among his colleagues and the Vallejo Police Department would earn almost $1 million.
The deal was reached last week by John Whitney and his lawyer, Jayme Walker, and calls for the city to pay Whitney $900,000 in addition to any charges, liens, and legal fees.
“I feel vindicated by the settlement agreement because of the amount,” Whitney said in an interview with The Times on Monday. “You don’t accept nearly $1 million if you did everything right,” someone said.
Whitney claims that he was fired after he informed Vallejo City Manager Greg Nyhoff, Mayor Bob Sampayan, and then-City Atty. Claudia Quintana that members of the Police Department were bending the corners of their badges to commemorate each time an officer killed a civilian in a lawsuit brought against the city and his former employers in 2020.
On Monday, The Times contacted the city of Vallejo, the city attorney’s office, the city manager’s office, the mayor’s office, former police chief Andrew Bidou, and the Vallejo Police Department. When contacted for comment, they were slow to answer.
An independent examination of “badge bending” in the department by a third party, according to Monica Martinez, of the Solano County district attorney’s office, “did not give rise to any criminal liability.”
According to Whitney, another officer initially informed him about badge bending inside the department in late 2014 or early 2015. up February 2019, when an officer was placed on administrative leave and required to turn up his badge, he was made aware of it a second time. The officer said that the two bent edges stood in for the two victims he had slain while on duty when Whitney questioned why there were two of them.
Whitney, a captain who had been with the Vallejo Police Department since 2000 and had been elevated to that position in 2015, also complained about what he claimed were additional illegal actions taken and poor management while the previous Chief Bidou, who is also named in the case, was in charge. Whitney claimed that a sergeant assaulted a juvenile and falsely claimed that the child had threatened to commit terrorism in a use-of-force report.
Whitney claimed that when he requested that Bidou look into badge bending inside the department, Bidou declined. Whitney then gave the order to all the supervisors to gather any bent badges, and ten or so were discovered. According to reports, Bidou instructed the cops to alter the badges before returning them. Whitney informed Nyhoff, Sampayan, and Quintana that he was worried about evidence being destroyed.
Reporting misbehavior against other officers is discouraged in law enforcement, according to Whitney, since doing so would be “crossing the thin blue line.” Additionally, there is apprehension about reprisals from supervisors and coworkers.
He said that “too many things were happening, and there was no accountability.” “I was stunned and dismayed that City Manager Nyhoff was effectively complicit in a plot to launch an internal affairs inquiry and fire me. The individual I went to with the idea that they could handle these issues was also associated with the Police Department’s cover-up of misconduct.
Whitney claims that in August 2019, Bidou and Nyhoff fired him as retaliation for reporting badge bending and other misconduct and subjected him to a “sham investigation” for deleting personal content from his department-issued cellphone, a practice Whitney claims is not against Police Department policy.
Walker expressed her hope that the agreement will encourage more police officers to report corruption inside their units.
Walker told The Times, “I hope that there will be some genuine change in Vallejo, and one of the important things holding them in line is the press has been closely examining their actions. That is how we can draw attention to this and defend the whistleblowers who ought to have been honored as heroes but were instead wrongfully fired.
There is a stigma associated with leaving the police department, especially as a high-ranking captain, according to Whitney, who is currently employed with the El Cerrito Police Department. When he started searching for jobs, the agencies informed him they had been notified about his background, which he said made it impossible for him to obtain another position. Even more, the head of the El Cerrito Police Department informed him that Whitney’s hiring had been questioned.
Whitney stated, “There was a lot of worry and sleepless nights that just continued for years.” “I was prepared for the next step with all of my training, knowledge, and experience. I instead began over as a line-level patrol officer at a different organization. They took away all I had worked so hard for in my job.
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