A Thin Brown Line or No Line?
by Brian Farrell - Vallejo resident, former City Attorney in Santa Rosa
Why is Councilmember Brown so close to the VPOA/ VPD, which has been plagued with police shootings and misconduct settlements and verdicts for decades? Is it the endless stream of 2018 "Brown for Council" TV campaign ads that concluded with the endorsement of Councilmember Brown by Vallejo police officers?
Did officers walk precincts, stuff envelopes, and phone bank for him in 2018? Is it the many thousands of dollars that the police union donated in 2018 to JumpStart (the PAC that fought for a cement mill in South Vallejo) to guarantee the election of Councilmember Brown? Are there other reasons?
Below is a video where Councilmember Brown discusses his private viewing of the Willie McCoy killing. Six officers fired 55 rounds in roughly three seconds at Willie McCoy, who had fallen asleep or passed out at the Admiral Callahan Taco Bell. Over thirty bullets hit and killed Willie McCoy.
In any other city in America, is a council member so united with the police union and police department that the police enable him or her to see the most important evidence in a controversial case, before the family, the council or the public? Not that I know of.
No one else from the council was there. No one from the city attorney's office was asked for guidance by Councilmember Brown or the VPD/VPOA.
Do private viewings empower the police to promote a self-interested narrative, deny that they could not have stayed behind cover to reduce the risk of a shoot/don’t shoot crisis and highlight their fear, whether real or unreasonable?
Can any of us imagine how suspicious and hurt a family would feel upon learning that an elected official had met in private with the VPD/VPOA to be briefed by them before the family had an opportunity to learn how their loved one spent their last moments?
Speaking of the family, they and many of their supporters, have demanded to see proof that Willie McCoy was armed. Why haven't the community and family been shown proof? Normally, the police display photographs or a weapon as a part of the initial press conference. Families are entitled to know how their loved one was taken. In a later post, evidence of the indifference to the dignity and humanity of family members of men killed by the VPD will be reviewed. Brutality does not end with the violence on the streets.
Why would an elected official seek a private viewing? What justification is there? That the union and police department will do anything an elected official asks is not justification.
Why did the police remain in a position where a twitch or any movement as someone awakens could prompt a fusillade? Had I, a 68 year-old white grandfather, been passed out with a pistol on my lap, I would have expected (due to white privilege) that the officers would have shielded themselves behind their cars and the corner of a building. They would have applied “Time+Distance=Options” and brought the situation to a safe conclusion. Why don’t we see similar efforts in the Willie McCoy videos?
In Councilmember Brown’s view, the killing was a “tragedy,” but he did not question or criticize the killing. Why? Does he feel that the officers showed respect for the sanctity of Willie McCoy's life?
Neither the family nor the community can know what was discussed during the private viewing. Can the appearance of undue influence and bias be washed away? This incident reveals a profoundly inappropriate relationship that goes far beyond this case.
Candidate Brown has made many campaign promises about police reform. Past actions weigh more heavily for me in choosing whom to vote for. Actions speak far louder than words. Some people will point to his vote to add an assistant chief or the new legally fragile emergency proclamation. For many, city hall (with the exception of Councilmember McConnell), VPD, and VPOA have been one entity. Now there is some distance separating them for the moment, except on Measure G, a cynical ploy to fund 3% at fifty public safety pensions, the new police station, the rich new VPOA labor contract, and the $50m in misconduct payments.
Things may be changing a little (we still need independent oversight and an impartial monitor to oversee genuine, serious change). So why would Councilmember Brown try to change his image?
Here is Vessels of Vallejo's answer:
“Hakeem Brown spent his speaking time (at the 10/6 city council meeting) saying every possible thing he could from every angle he could in order to impress as many people and groups as he could. Brown is THE definition of a pandering politician. Do not fall for it, do not vote for this man…. Brown has only changed his tune as elections near.”
Vote for Robert McConnell. He has always been and always will be independent of the VPD/VPOA. He will do what is best for Vallejo.
For details about Open Vallejo’s successful efforts to obtain the McCoy killing videos, see Times-Herald's archives: "vallejo-police-release-footage-of-six-officers-shooting-willie-mccoy."
At about the 55 second mark, the private viewing of the video is discussed by Councilmember Brown at 0n This Youtube Video "Vallejo politician Hakeem Brown reveals watching bodycam video...."