Police work, man. The only place where you can kill another human being and then get promoted before that killing has even been investigated.
Now, Open Vallejo and ProPublica have looked at what happens inside the department after those killings occur, examining more than 15,000 pages of police, forensic, and court files related to the city’s 17 fatal police shootings since 2011. Based on records that emerged after dozens of public records requests and two lawsuits filed by Open Vallejo, the news organizations found a pattern of delayed and incomplete investigations, with dire consequences.
In the Foster case, when top department leadership ultimately reviewed reports and evidence more than a year and a half after Foster was killed, it found McMahon had violated department policies — both by pursuing Foster on foot without notifying the department and without backup and by failing to turn on his body camera before using deadly force. (While McMahon only turned on his body camera after he fired, the camera is designed to automatically capture 30 seconds of pre-activation footage.)
“Officer McMahon failed to recognize his safety and the safety of the suspect Ronnell Foster outweighed apprehension for a minor traffic/pedestrian violation,” then-police chief Joseph Allio wrote in a memorandum. Allio ordered that McMahon “attend a 1 to 3-day course on officer safety and tactics focusing on critical incidents.”
But by the time that training was ordered, the officer had been involved in the killing of another African-American man.
According to our first-of-its-kind review of Vallejo’s investigations of police killings, six of the department’s 17 fatal shootings between 2011 and 2020 involved an officer using deadly force while still under investigation for a prior killing. In three of those cases, including McMahon’s, department officials noted officers’ initial mistakes in their reports, but not until after their second killing. In all three, the investigation into the second killing also revealed significant tactical errors, like not considering the use of nonlethal weapons. In one case, officials identified the same mistake in two killings involving the same officer.
These kinds of things are not, of course, uncommon around the U.S.
Cops like to scream that they are being targeted while, in fact, they enjoy some of the highest pay and most robust job protections of any class of employee ever in history.