Former Vacaville Police Chief John Carli announces run for mayor


Photo: Former Vacaville Police Chief John Carli observes an event hosted by Representative John Garamendi in Woodland, California on Friday, September 21, 2018. (File photo by Matthew Keys)

More than a year after entering retirement, former Vacaville Police Chief John Carli is ready to engage in public service once again.

On Thursday, Carli announced his intention to run for mayor in the city where he served as a police chief for much of his three-decade law enforcement career.

The announcement was made on Facebook shortly after current Vacaville Mayor Ron Rowlett disclosed he would not seek an additional term. Rowlett formally gave his endorsement to Carli a short time later.

“I am honored and humbled by your support, and am thankful for all you have accomplished for our city and staff over the years,” Carli wrote in a message on Facebook. “I look forward to this opportunity to serve.”

Carli joined the Vacaville Police Department in 1989 and was tapped to serve as the city’s police chief in 2014. As chief, he oversaw a department of over 170 sworn law enforcement officers and civilian employees.

Two years into his term as police chief, he was called to the White House where then-President Barack Obama engaged him and other law enforcement leaders in a discussion on progressive policing initiatives. The meeting came amid several high-profile killings of unarmed civilians by police and shortly after a gunman opened fire on officers in Dallas, Texas.

“Vacaville is doing something right,” Carli said in a newspaper interview at the time. “Most agencies only focus on crime. We focus on prevention.”

But his tenure as police chief was not without controversy: As was the case throughout the country, Vacaville saw its share of police reform protests in the summer of 2020 sparked by the death of George Floyd, a Black man who was murdered by a white Minneapolis police officer. While the protests eventually subsided, a fringe group of activists continued to hold rallies in Vacaville.

A rally held the following January rally turned violent when a handful of activists vandalized the Vacaville Police Department’s headquarters and a number of other city-owned buildings. The following week, officers confronted activists who were conducting a homeless outreach event at a local park, pulling over several people for minor traffic infractions as they left and taking a handful of people into custody when the group confronted them.

Days after the incident, the group’s leader, Dalauna Knox, spoke at a city council meeting and demanded Carli hand in his resignation. A few weeks later, Carli announced his intention to resign; that April, he stepped away from the department.

The police department was also mired in controversy after a video surfaced last year that showed an officer correcting a police dog by punching it in the face. Though the police department initially defended the officer, the incident triggered an internal — and later, an external — investigation into that event and a broader look at the culture within the agency. (The dog was eventually relocated, and the officer no longer handles K-9s.) That review is still ongoing.

On Thursday, the Vacaville Reporter newspaper said Carli’s inaugural campaign event would be held next at the Sonoma Springs Brewing Company in downtown Vacaville. According to the company’s Instagram page, the brewery shut down in June.

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