Authorities arrested nine people on Tuesday after they disrupted a Fairfield City Council meeting for the hiring of a police officer who was previously involved in two fatal shootings while on-duty as a Vallejo officer.
Fairfield police revealed in a statement that they charged eight adults with disturbing the peace after a chaotic demonstration in the middle of the meeting. The ninth arrested individual was a 17-year-old Fairfield resident.
During the protests, the suspects chanted and called out to the officials for their unjust hiring of Fairfield Officer Dustin Joseph in 2018. The personnel was previously working with the Vallejo Police Department. One video posted on social media showed police officers handcuffing the demonstrators and taking them out of the meeting room.
The video also showed one protester using a megaphone to call out how every single day that Joseph was working as an officer was a disgrace to the essence of the community.
The two fatal shootings that Joseph was involved with happened in 2012 and 2013. Records showed that since June 2010, Vallejo police had killed over 19 people, and officials have not charged any person in relation to the fatalities. Last month, Vallejo city officials released a public safety emergency announcement in an attempt to hasten their Police Department’s reform initiatives.
A spokesman for the police department said that on August 14, authorities removed Joseph from active duty after the opening of an official inquiry of a badge bending practice. However, with the state’s Peace Officers Bill of Rights setting a one-year deadline for allegations of misconduct, legal experts worry the officers would become exempt from disciplinary actions.
Another of the nine arrested protesters, Jimarielle Bowie, said Joseph’s hiring was the last straw. She noted the disruption of the council meeting sent a message that officials were idling by and failed to address much larger issues of police accountability and homelessness.
Since June, several members of the group that organized the protest, Fairfield Change, have spent their time trying to urge officials to make the first step in addressing the issue. Bowie noted that the arrests made on Tuesday were disproportionate to the disruption they caused, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
Fairfield police released a statement that said the protestors conducted their demonstration willfully and without authority. They added the activists did not wait for the council meeting’s public comment section to start to voice their complaints.
The police department said, “Freedom of speech is a cornerstone of our society and is protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.” However, they added that there are certain cases where restraint must be exercised, such as protesting and creating chaos during a lawful council meeting.
Police Chief Deanna Cantrell also wrote an open letter addressing the issue of hiring Joseph and allowing him to continue serving despite being involved in the death of 23-year-old Mario Romero on September 2, 2012.
The Solano County District Attorney’s Office conducted an investigation that concluded that Joseph and fellow officer Sean Kenney acted in self-defense during the encounter with Romero eight years ago.
The scuffle between the two police officers and the resident resulted when Romero got out of his vehicle and reached for what the two law enforcement believed was a gun. However, the firearm turned out to be a non-fatal pellet gun.
Cantrell said that the department’s hiring process was robust and strictly followed the state standards for law enforcement departments. She added that there was no knowledge of Joseph’s alleged involvement with the Vallejo police’s act of bending their badges to signify fatal shootings.
The Vallejo Police Department has opted to conduct its own independent, third-party investigation to look into the claims of badge bending. Officials noted that the case was still ongoing, CBS Local reported.