Vallejo community hurt by lack of new police facility, report says
Four out of 10 crime victims in Vallejo are children, and the majority are under the age of 14 years old, according to a new report issued this month by the Solano County civil grand jury.
The report was part of a broader look at crime in the community of Vallejo and how the lack of a modern police facility was making life more dangerous there, with the civil grand jury saying the agency’s current facility on Amador Street was not equipped to handle young victims of trauma and sexual abuse.
The police department’s current headquarters was built in the 1960s when the population of Vallejo was around 60,000. That population has more than doubled in the six decades since, but the building has not kept up with the times.
Among the many problems at the current police headquarters on Amador Street is a failing air conditioning system, sewage issues and the lack of a backup electrical generator. There is a shortage of office space within the building, which makes it difficult for police officers and other employees to work there. There aren’t enough interview rooms to conduct interrogations. The air conditioner works when it wants to. There is asbestos everywhere.
The problems are in part to blame for retention and recruitment issues, the civil grand jury reported. Few prospective police officers want to work for an agency housed in a building with that many safety and workplace issues, it concluded. Those who do work there are burning out and feel unappreciated.
In 2019, city officials voted in favor of purchasing a property on Mare Island Way for a new police headquarters. In the three years since, the project has been met with some pushback, both within the community and among elected leaders.
That pushback has increased as the Vallejo Police Department has faced increased public scrutiny over officer-involved shootings and allegations that some of its members participated in a badge-bending ritual when they fatally shot a suspect.
“While the anger and frustration of family members and activists are understandable, their determination to stop the relocation of the police department is counter-productive and is aimed at the wrong people,” the civil grand jury wrote in its report.
Delays in relocating the police department’s headquarters has forced the City of Vallejo to spend thousands of dollars each year on what the grand jury described as “band-aids” to address various problems within the agency and the community.
As time goes on, the problems will become even more expensive to fix, the civil grand jury warned. (In a comment section, the civil grand jury said it “encountered a significant amount of resistance” from the city attorney when it pressed for information as part of its report.)
It also said an alternate proposal floated in April that would relocate the police department to the John F. Kennedy Library was inadequate because it is a “dark, aging building with maintenance issues.” Among the many issues is that the elevator has been out of service. For this reason, the building is not compliant with federal disability access laws, the grand jury said.
The cost of renovating the library branch to accommodate a modern police force was estimated at just over $38 million. The building on Mare Island that was part of the city’s original plan was purchased for around $13 million, with an estimated renovation cost between $10 and $20 million (now, that cost is between $30 million and $35 million — an expense that will only grow as the city continues to delay its relocation, the grand jury concluded).
The civil grand jury urged officials in Vallejo to move forward with the planned relocation and to apply for federal and state grants to offset relocation and renovation costs.