Vallejo Police Chief Talks Future of Department

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He is the first African American to lead Vallejo’s police department in its 120-year history and it comes at a pivotal time.

The department has been in turmoil the past few years, with a disturbing number of officer involved shootings and allegations of excessive force.

“I can identify with the city of Vallejo,” said Chief of Police Shawny Williams. “This seat doesn’t belong to me it belongs to the people we serve.”

In November, the 26-year veteran of San Jose’s Police Department was sworn in making him Vallejo’s first African American chief -- what he sees as an honor.

“It gives me the opportunity to connect with people who feel marginalized a group of people I can identify,” Williams said.

Many people feel Vallejo police have and big problem with excessive force against minorities.

“If you say there’s a problem without having all the information that would be unfair and unjust,” he said.

NBC Bay Area’s Investigative Unit conducted a nine-month investigation of the Vallejo Police Department and found it has the highest number of police shootings, per capita, in Northern California.

One involved a young rapper shot dozens of times after he fell asleep behind the wheel, at a Taco Bell drive through.

“I can’t change the past, but we can impact the future,” said Williams.

The chief said budget cuts during the past decade have really hurt the department. He only has 122 sworn officers now, and said he needs at least 180.

However, he is optimistic that making some key police changes will help Vallejo police regain the community’s trust.

“When we look at the reason people fear each other is because they don’t know each other,” said Williams. “People need to learn how to trust us again and so that’s why I’m here to establish that trust.”

The father of two says he is a man of faith and he’s in for the long haul.

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