SAN FRANCISCO — A San Francisco Bay Area city has proclaimed a public safety emergency declaration allowing staff to bypass normal channels to push through reforms involving a scandal-ridden department that is reeling from high crime rates, low morale and troubled community relations in the wake of shootings of minorities by police.
“Very brave step for all of us but it’s something that needed to be done,” Mayor Bob Sampayan said as the Vallejo City Council unanimously approved the motion Tuesday night.
City staff recommended the declaration, which allows the police chief and city manager to hire command staff and more quickly implement policy changes, although the city could risk litigation in doing so.
The council also passed a broader police reform proposal directing the city manager and police chief to beef up community policing, provide options for independent oversight and find ways to improve public trust and transparency.
The city of 120,000 people faces “a crisis of legitimacy and trust” that demands emergency action, said Vallejo spokeswoman Christina Lee before the meeting.
There have been more than 350 shootings and 22 homicides in the city this year, including an incident in August in which two people were killed and their 1-year-old shot.
At the same time, police face mounting criticism and fiscal liability over shootings and misconduct by officers. Lee says two dozen federal civil rights cases and more than a dozen tort claims are pending that could cost the city $50 million as well as higher insurance premiums.