Vacaville schedules second community policing forum


Participants in a community policing forum speak with each other during a break at Will C. Wood High School in Vacaville on Wednesday, June 22, 2022. (File photo by Matthew Keys for Solano NewsNet)

The City of Vacaville will host a second community policing forum next month, part of an overall series of public engagements that are occurring simultaneously with a third-party audit of the city's police department.

The community forum follows a similar event that was held in June where the public was given the opportunity to engage with police officials, city employees and community leaders. Questions that were submitted to police and city officials during the event were answered on a webpage published by the City of Vacaville this week.

In a statement, Vacaville Police Chief Ian Schmutzler said the public forums helped ensure the community was engaged with the police department on building a vibrant and safe place for those who work, live and visit the city.

"Engagement opportunities are some of the best means by which we create the bonds and relationships between citizens, and the men and women who are sworn to protect them and improve their quality of life," Chief Schmutzler said.

The police department has come under scrutiny over the last two years after several high-profile incidents involving police officers.

In December 2020, a Vacaville police officer was caught on video punching a police dog during a training session in an industrial part of the city. The K-9 was evaluated and cleared by a veterinarian, according to the police department. The officer who appeared in the video has never been identified, but the agency says he no longer works with police dogs.

The following month, several activists who were holding a homeless outreach event at a local park were arrested by a tactical police team. The incident came less than a week after protesters vandalized the Vacaville Police Department's headquarters and another city building.

Three months later, the Vacaville Police Department made national news after an officer was seen punching a 17-year-old with autism. The incident was captured by a residential surveillance camera; the homeowner published the video to Facebook. Earlier this year, the police department settled with the teenager's family, agreeing to pay $170,000 to the family and another $30,000 to an autism advocacy group.

The April 2021 incident occurred shortly after the OIR Group started its audit of the police department's practices and culture. Earlier this year, the scope of the audit was expanded to include the agency's policies concerning body-worn cameras, school resource officers and response to mental health crisis events, among other things.

An auditor with OIR Group was observed by Solano NewsNet in attendance at the June community forum, though it was not clear what the auditor was evaluating at that time. 

The second community forum has been scheduled for Wednesday, September 14, 2022. It will take place at the Three Oaks Community Center, 1100 Alamo Drive, from 5:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m.

The City of Vacaville is asking individuals who are interested in attending the community forum to register online. While the first community forum was streamed on Zoom, city officials say the September forum will be held in person only.

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