FAIRFIELD (CBS13) — Nine people were arrested Tuesday during a Fairfield City Council meeting while protesting the hiring of a former Vallejo officer who was involved in a fatal shooting and accused of badge bending.
Badge bending is an alleged secret ritual where a police officer bends the top of their badge to signify a killing.
Cell phone video from inside the meeting shows officers placing people in handcuffs walking them outside.
Mari Bowie was one of nine people arrested, accused of disrupting the meeting. Most were protesting the hiring of officer Dustin Joseph, who was involved in the shooting death of Mario Romero in September of 2012 in Vallejo.
The officer is also part of an outside investigation into alleged badge bending. According to Fairfield Police Chief Deanna Cantrell, the department wasn’t aware of the badge bending investigation prior to the officer’s hiring.
Cantrell says she is equally concerned and adds officer Joseph isn’t currently working the streets.
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CBS13 reached out to the Vallejo Police Department, where the officer used to work, to find out why he left the department but did not hear back.
Bowie says she been sounding the alarm for months.
“We brought this to the city council’s attention on August 6 of 2020,” she said.
She and others are highly concerned about the allegations and how Tuesday’s meeting went down.
“Bending your badge is literally disgusting,” she said. “It was a terrible display you would have thought someone got murdered here.”
“I just want an apology I think we all deserve an apology I think the public deserves an apology,” Thomas Avent added.
The Solano County District Attorney’s Office did clear the officer of any criminal charges which Fairfield Police say they were aware of. The DA’s review did investigate issues of civil liability, tactics or departmental policy violations, according to Fairfield police.
In a statement, Fairfield police said the protesters “chose to disrupt the council meeting to the point it had to be recessed.” It went on to say the people causing the disruption refused to leave, so they were arrested.
Below is a statement from the Fairfield police chief:
Since joining the City of Fairfield and the Fairfield Police Department I’ve received questions from the community about an officer that works for the department and was previously employed by an neighboring agency. Trust, transparency, and accountability with regard to how we protect and serve our community is our utmost priority. Therefore, I hope this statement answers any lingering questions the community may have.
Every loss of life is a tragedy and the loss of Mario Romero is not an exception.
The shooting of Mario Romero in 2012 was investigated per the Solano County Fatal Incident Protocol by the Vallejo Police Department, criminal investigators from the Solano County District Attorney’s (DA) office, and personnel from the San Mateo County Crime Lab. The Solano County DA’s review addressed whether the case presented a basis for criminal prosecution of the involved Officers. It did not address issues of civil liability, tactics or departmental policy violations. In making their determination that there was no criminal wrongdoing, the DA’s office reviewed all evidence in this case, including the involved officers’ statements, statements from numerous witnesses, dispatch records, coroner’s findings, crime lab findings and all other evidence. The DA’s office went beyond the criminal investigation and sent the case to the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of California for independent review. Please see all closure documents at https://bit.ly/2UEFtUE
As to the badge bending investigation – that was not brought to light prior to Fairfield hiring Officer Joseph in 2018. I understand this is concerning to the community, and I want you to know it is equally concerning to me. An investigation is being conducted with the Peace Officer Bill Of Rights and due process being followed by an independent investigative firm through the City of Vallejo.
Officer Joseph is not currently working the streets.
Background investigations for peace officers must be conducted according to California Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) standards and the history of a peace officer applicant must be thoroughly investigated to make sure that the applicant is of good moral character [Government Code 1031(d)] and that nothing in his/her background is inconsistent with performing peace officer duties. The background investigation is also conducted to ensure that the applicant meets the minimum selection requirements of Commission Regulation 1953 (Link to Commission Reg 1953 https://bit.ly/3lVbLX6) and Government Code Section 1031 (Link to Gov Code Sec 1031https://bit.ly/3f9NzOi).
Background investigations include in depth interviews of the applicant, prior employers, neighbors, and family members, in depth review of employment records, social media history, education and certification verification. There is also a physical fitness examination, medical evaluation, psychological evaluation, and polygraph. The Fairfield Police Department has a robust process to ensure the high standards set by POST and the FPD can be met. Background investigations for an officer typically take five to eight weeks to conduct and are reviewed and examined thoroughly by several experienced investigators and the command team. Furthermore, the department works with experienced polygraphers and psychologists to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the polygraph and psychological screenings. Personal social media that is available for public viewing is evaluated for indicators of bias that could conflict with the City’s values.
The Fairfield Police Department is audited annually by POST to ensure background investigations are conducted effectively and in accordance with POST standards.
Deanna Cantrell, Chief of Police