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Scandal-ridden police department to install vehicle cameras

Forty Vallejo police vehicles will soon have in-car cameras installed, adding a layer of transparency for a department embroiled in seemingly endless scandal.

The Axon Fleet 3 cameras will be in operation by June, according to a Wednesday department press release. The devices will capture visual and audio activity at the front of the vehicle and provide a view of the back seat, recording police interactions like traffic stops, vehicle pursuits, arrest transports and more.

Vallejo Police Chief Shawny K. Williams issued the following statement:

“We are building trust through transparency by leveraging technology that provides greater officer safety, awareness, and real-time information. This is not only a win-win for our officers and community, but a force multiplier.”

The cameras include automated license plate readers, GPS and integrate with national databases — department supervisors will also be monitor the live stream on any vehicle camera for “additional oversight.”

The chief added:

“Integrating these in-car cameras enhances our efficiency, effectiveness, and commitment to providing exceptional service to our community while also fulfilling our obligation to improve oversight and accountability. The cameras aid in protecting our residents and give our community greater confidence in the work our officers are doing.”

The infamous “badge bending” ritual came to light less than a year after Williams joined the department in December 2019. Retired Sonoma County Sheriff Robert Giordano, who critics then called a “long time police apologist,” was tapped in August 2020 to investigate claims that officers had made a decades-long practice of bending badge tips to commemorate on-duty shootings.

The investigation was concluded in September, though findings have been kept from the public.

Beyond the badge bending, VPD has been nationally scrutinized for its use of excessive force, including the killing of Sean Monterrosa; allegations of evidence destruction, racism, and officer misconduct; and its poor handling of the Denise Huskins kidnapping case.

Huskins now husband Aaron Quinn was falsely accused of murder and arrested. When Huskins was released alive, VPD accused the couple of fabricating the kidnapping story. In a published call to disband the department, Quinn claimed investigators ignored leads that pointed to the real perpetrators, one of whom was caught after attacking another family and was later convicted in both cases.

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