Vallejo PD whistleblower settles lawsuit with city for close to $1 million

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Thursday, September 14, 2023
Vallejo PD whistleblower settles lawsuit for close to $1M
A Vallejo Police Department whistleblower has settled a lawsuit with the city for close to $1 million.

VALLEJO, Calif. (KGO) -- A Vallejo Police Department whistleblower has settled a lawsuit with the city for close to $1 million.

Former Police Captain John Whitney was the one who reported allegations of badge bending to the city. Officers were allegedly bending down the corners of their badges following police shootings they were involved in.

After being fired from the Vallejo Police Department, Whitney says he now feels some vindication and a lot of emotions.

"I'm sorry...I'm just," said Whitney, trailing off.

I-TEAM EXCLUSIVE: Former Vallejo PD captain speaks out, claims he was fired for whistleblowing

A former Vallejo Police Department Captain is speaking out. Captain John Whitney claims in a new lawsuit he was fired for whistleblowing.

Whitney and his attorney, Jayme Walker of Gwilliam Ivary, say Tuesday night the city council voted to approve a nearly $1 million dollar settlement to Whitney's whistleblower lawsuit.

Whitney says he was fired for reporting unethical and corrupt behavior within the Vallejo Police Department, including badge bending. Officers had been bending down the corners of their badges following shootings they were involved in.

"I had received awards for lifetime achievement from the Peace Officer Standards and Training, and I was ready for the next step in my career, and they took all of that away from me," Whitney told the I-Team.

Walker says the settlement sends a clear message that Vallejo fired a whistleblower.

EXCLUSIVE: Fired Vallejo police lieutenant questions reason he was let go, shares his story

A long-time Vallejo Lieutenant who was one of two lieutenants the department fired last week is sharing his side of the story. Lieutenant Herman Robinson spoke to ABC7 News I-Team reporter Melanie Woodrow in a story you'll see Only On 7.

"You don't pay nearly a million dollars when you did the right thing," Walker said.

At issue has been the intention behind badge bending, which ABC7 News I-Team reporter Melanie Woodrow discussed with both sides last year.

"These officers were celebrating in a gang-like fashion the murder and death of Black and brown people in the city of Vallejo," said Civil Rights Attorney Adante Pointer to ABC7 News in February of last year.

"The officers had to confront a lethal force incident, and it was a way of acknowledging that," attorney for Vallejo police officers, Mike Rains, told ABC7 News in February of last year.

RELATED: Vallejo PD explains why it hasn't released findings of police misconduct investigation

The Solano County District Attorney refused to investigate, exclusively telling Woodrow in February of last year, "We don't chase rumors, we don't chase rumors."

The Vallejo Police Department launched and concluded an independent third-party investigation, but the findings have never been publicly released.

"I think the community has a right to know what was going on inside their police department," Whitney said.

The Vallejo city manager said Monday in a statement the city is prohibited from releasing the report because it is a peace officer personnel record.

RELATED: District attorney explains why she refused to investigate fatal Vallejo police shootings

But even the officers implicated have called for the report to be released, according to their attorney, Rains.

By email, Rains in part told Woodrow, that the city should be ashamed of itself for not releasing the investigation and correcting the false narrative.

"To have officers commemorating their shootings with this ritual where they bend their badges, it just, it creates a stain on the department. It creates the perception that they're celebrating it, even if that's not what they were doing," Walker said.

Whitney, who is now working as a patrol officer for El Cerrito police, says the most difficult part has been losing his career trajectory.

RELATED: New calls for federal oversight on Vallejo PD following deadly shootings

Still, he says he'd do it all over again.

"Despite everything that happened, yes, I would still report it. It's what we are mandated to do in law enforcement," Whitney said.

The I-Team reached out to the City of Vallejo, the city attorney's office, the Vallejo Police Department, Vallejo Police Officers Association, and the attorney general's office for comment.

City Manager Mike Malone said he had no comment at this time. We have not yet heard back from the others.

By email, Solano County District Attorney Krishna Abrams told the I-Team, "None of the findings in the independent third-party investigation into badge bending gave rise to criminal liability."

Take a look at more stories by the ABC7 News I-Team.

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