Vallejo Police Chief Launches Investigation Into Alleged Badge Bending to Mark Fatal Shootings

The independent newsroom Open Vallejo first revealed allegations Vallejo Police bend the tips of their badges to mark fatal shootings. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Vallejo's police chief has launched a third-party investigation into allegations that some officers at the department bend the tips of their star-shaped badges to mark people they've shot and killed.

Chief Shawny Williams on Friday said he received information from two sources within the department that the badge bending had in fact occurred, and that an investigation could begin as early as next week.

Williams made the announcement just days after saying he'd launch an official inquiry into the allegations first reported by the independent newsroom Open Vallejo. Williams said Wednesday he would move the inquiry into an investigation if he found credible evidence the allegations were true.

The announcement Friday further confirms the allegations.

"As a result of these very troubling and disturbing allegations, I’ve asked for an independent outside investigation to be completed by a third party," he said in a press statement Friday.

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Open Vallejo first reported about a retaliation claim filed with the City of Vallejo by John Whitney, a 19-year department veteran who contends he was fired last year for internally exposing the alleged badge-bending tradition and other misconduct.

According to Open Vallejo, at least 14 of the 51 current and former Vallejo police officers involved in fatal shootings since 2000 had their badges bent by a colleague at backyard barbecue celebrations where the shootings were commemorated.

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On Wednesday, Williams said he was "deeply disturbed" by the allegations.

“Celebrating the killing of a human being is never acceptable," he said.

Open Vallejo also reported that top city leaders, including Mayor Bob Sampayan, a veteran of the police department, knew about the badge-bending tradition.

Vallejo police say the independent investigation will begin as early as next week and could last several months.