A former California police captain says he was fired for raising concerns about misconduct, including officers bending tips of their seven-point badge to indicate the number of people they'd killed. John Whitney, formerly of Vallejo Police, says he learned of the practice last February after officers fatally shot Willie McCoy in a drive-thru. The 19-year veteran informed Mayor Bob Sampayan, City Manager Greg Nyhoff and then-City Attorney Claudia Quintana, but was soon after fired, his lawyer tells the San Francisco Chronicle. Whitney filed a Feb. 21 claim stating he was released "for expressing his professional opinions on a variety of misconduct issues," including former Police Chief Andrew Bidou telling a subordinate to "burn that b----" in reference to kidnapping victim Denise Huskins, who police wrongly accused of orchestrating a hoax. As the city did not respond within 45 days, Whitney can now file a lawsuit.
Whitney further claims Bidou told him to delete text messages so they could not be used "during the litigation involving the Huskins' kidnapping." Bidou is also accused of intervening in an investigation into the badge practice. Open Vallejo reports at least 14 of 51 officers involved in fatal shootings since 2000 had bent badges. A 2019 investigation found the department had the highest number of people shot by police officers, per capita, in Northern California, per CNN. Sampayan informed Nyhoff of badge-bending allegations last year, at which point Bidou indicated the claim "had not been substantiated," Assistant City Manager Anne Cardwell says, per the Chronicle. Bidou retired last year, while Sampayan went on to claim Whitney's "reputation was soiled by those that did not want any 'dirty laundry' aired." Current Police Chief Shawny Williams says an inquiry has been launched. (Read more police officers stories.)