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The Vallejo Police Department Is Corrupt, And Why You Should Care

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Vallejo Police Department Sign. Photo by Thomas Hawk

The Bay Area has always acted as if it was exceptional – and in some ways it is. The Bay Area is exceptionally beautiful and exceptionally wealthy. It’s also, in some ways, exceptionally full of shit. 

The Vallejo Police Department’s history of unchecked murder and normalized use of lesser forms of brutality have been, and still are, a glaring example of this region’s blindness to the issues facing cities that aren’t named San Francisco, Oakland or Berkeley. 

If we are what we proclaim to be, how did we allow a city that sits just 30 miles from San Francisco to become a killing field for one of the most violent police departments in the country? And why did it take articles in every major publication in the United States and a fucking Vice documentary for activists in other Bay Area cities to care?  

Police brutality is bad everywhere. There’s no good kind of police brutality, but Vallejo took things up a notch. Not only were they killing people, but they had a ritual celebrating it. 

For rank and file officers on VPD, a police involved shooting wasn’t looked at as a last resort in a violent situation, but a way to prove themselves to their peers; it was a source of validation, and it even came with a trophy. 

Officers who were involved in shootings would have their badges bent by superiors in the department. Homicide was being treated as a rite of passage by an American police department in the San Francisco Bay Area for over a decade. 

My sergeant, after my first officer-involved shooting, said wouldn’t it be nice if you could look around and see a visual indicator of people you can trust in a moment of chaos? And then he took my badge, and he bent it,” said former Vallejo Police officer, Joshua Coleman, in an interview with Vice News. 

This practice and this level of brutality were something that Vallejoans, especially Vallejoans of color, were dealing with on a regular basis. 

And no one outside of Vallejo seemed to care. 

Even when VPD chased down and brutalized people in neighboring cities, which they have with startling regularity, there were no actual repercussions. 

They shot an unarmed man in Martinez… Nothing happened. 

They shot a man in Richmond… Nothing happened. 

An off-duty VPD officer pulled a gun on and beat up a dude in Walnut Creek… Nothing happened. 

ACTUALLY, CORRECTION: Something did happen. In the case of the Walnut Creek incident, Walnut Creek police officers actually held the guy down so the Vallejo cop could beat on him… This was captured on video. No one cared. 

It does appear that things are changing, at least in terms of public scrutiny. When VPD murdered Sean Monterrosa, it was like the entire Bay Area woke up to the fact that VPD is evil, and not in an evil genius House of Cards kind of way, but like dumb and evil. 

The Vallejo Police Department is an example of stupid, pointless, and unsophisticated evil. The Sean Monterrosa video was one of the stupidest police brutality videos of all time. I’m not just saying that because I lived in Vallejo. The murder was so egregious and so risky, not only to Sean, but also to the officers in the car, that it still to this day leaves me flabbergasted. 

If you haven’t seen the video, you can watch it here.

If you don’t want to watch a man get murdered for no reason, I can describe the video. 

So, for some context, Sean Monterrosa was in Vallejo to participate in the George Floyd protests. Yes, he was a victim of police brutality while protesting police brutality. He and a few others allegedly broke into a Walgreens to steal. Walgreens is a major corporate chain store that has insurance. They’d survive the break in. 

Here’s a breakdown of the video:

  • VPD got a call that people were looting the Walgreens on Redwood St. 
  • VPD officers were in an unmarked truck. 
  • There were three officers in the truck.
  • Two in the front, and one in the back who had a fucking assault rifle. 
  • Upon entering the parking lot, they spotted Sean, he surrendered and got on his knees, likely anticipating that he was going to be arrested.
  • He was immediately shot in the head. 
  • The cop shot him before the car even stopped. This is what I mean by evil. 
  • He also fired his rifle just a few inches from the head of the officer driving the car. If the officer jerked the steering wheel, he could have shot the driver or the passenger in the head. The officer claimed he did this because he mistook Sean’s hammer for a gun. This is what I mean by stupid. 

Things like this have happened in Vallejo forever. Not long before Sean’s murder, VPD shot Willie McCoy, a guy who was asleep in his car, and the Bay Area ignored it because Vallejo isn’t treated like it matters.

Vallejo is a poor city on the northeastern edge of the bay without a BART station or a tech company to catapult it into relevance. For many San Franciscans, Vallejo is nothing more than the last bit of urban blight they’re forced to pass through on their way to wine country. Vallejo essentially functions as the Napa Valley’s dumpster. Vallejo directly straddles the Napa County line and exists to house minimum wage service workers that keep the Napa Valley alive for the rich tourists to day drink in. It serves the same purpose as East Palo Alto does in Silicon Valley. 

Sean’s execution shouldn’t have taken place. Sean Monterrosa should still be alive today. He should still be able to spend time with his family, who have made it their mission to end police executions in Vallejo, and to their credit, the aftermath of Sean Monterrosa’s murder marks the longest period in recent Vallejo history without the police murdering or shooting someone. This is likely due to the work and activism of Sean’s sisters, Michelle and Ashley Monterrosa

This reduction of police violence in Vallejo proves that investigating police misconduct and public scrutiny of law enforcement works. 

It can really save lives.

VPD has a long history of violence and no one outside of Vallejo really seemed to care. Most Bay Area cities don’t have the same activist networks that SF, Oakland or Berkeley benefit from. 

If we treated police brutality everywhere with the same level of scrutiny as we do in the urban areas, I believe it can save lives. 

What makes me sad is that VPD’s biggest mistake wasn’t that that they murdered someone, it’s that they murdered someone from San Francisco… a city that people care about.

When they murdered or beat up people from Vallejo or other lesser known cities, nothing happened. 

Hopefully that changes. 

If you want to learn more about VPD’s corruption, you can watch Vice’s excellent documentary by clicking this link.

If you want to support the Monterrosa family in their fight for justice, click this link.

Thanks for reading.

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Abraham Woodliff - Bay Area Memelord

Abraham Woodliff - Bay Area Memelord

Abraham Woodliff is a San Francisco-based writer, editor and digital content creator known for Bay Area Memes, a local meme page that has amassed nearly 200k followers. His work has appeared in SFGATE, The Bold Italic and of course, BrokeAssStuart.com. His book of short stories, personal essays and poetry entitled Don't Drown on Dry Ground is available now!

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