San Francisco Chronicle East Bay Columnist Otis Taylor has been writing for the paper since 2016 and covering Vallejo since 2017.
“I wouldn’t say Vallejo was my sole focus as a columnist but it was something that I took great interest in because I felt the people who had suffered and had been brutalized their stories weren’t being told and I wanted to do that for them,” said Taylor.
Taylor characterizes his coverage as both critical of the Vallejo Police Department and shining a light.
— Melanie Woodrow (@MelanieWoodrow) December 9, 2020
He recently announced he was moving to Georgia to work as an investigative reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Monday afternoon, Taylor received an email from the Vallejo Police Officers Association email account:
“Looks like 2021 will be a little bit better not having your biased and uniformed articles printed in the newspaper that only inflame the public……you have never looked for truth in any of your writings. We will warn our Georgia colleagues of your impending arrival.”
Taylor believes whoever wrote the email misspelled “uninformed.”
“The email that they sent to me was a reply to an email that they ignored in September, so while they’re saying ‘hey you never look for the truth,’ they’re replying to an email when I was asking for comment,” said Taylor.
“To police, this threat of ‘I’m going to call the cops on you’ — police know exactly what that means,” he continued.
A little more than 24 hours after Taylor received the email, Vallejo Police Chief Shawny Williams issued a response to media inquiries related to the matter.
“I am deeply disturbed by the statement purported to have been made by the VPOA to Mr. Taylor. We do not condone any form of disrespect, discourteous behavior or act of intimidation toward our media partners. The cornerstone of building positive relationships is respect, and this is the standard we must uphold as an organization.
We intend to investigate this matter to the fullest extent allowed by law. If a violation of City or Department policy is found, appropriate corrective action will be taken. The Vallejo Police Officers Association is a labor group and a separate entity from the Vallejo Police Department. Their views do not represent those of the Vallejo Police Department.
Journalism is a noble profession that is the cornerstone of a democracy – the only business entity given protections by the U.S. Constitution. When journalists are attacked, so is our Constitution. Since my arrival more than a year ago, the Vallejo Police Department has worked to strengthen our relationship with our news partners by being transparent with information, accessible, and responsive. I will continue the work of maintaining open lines of communications with our media partners.
We deeply regret Mr. Taylor’s unfortunate experience. We take this matter very seriously and want our community to know that we will continually strive to be a positive reflection of growth and change in the City of Vallejo.”
Taylor would not speculate on who from the VPOA emailed him.
“But I know whoever sent that email does not fear consequences from the police department,” he said.
As he leaves the Bay Area he says he feels inspired.
“…to do more research, to do more digging, to do more questioning of police narratives,” said Taylor.
Michael Rains, an attorney for the Vallejo POA, issued the following statement Wednesday night:
“Speaking on behalf of the Vallejo POA, I share and understand the frustration members of the Association feel about the lack of objectivity in the reporting of Mr. Taylor. As an Attorney representing Police Officers throughout the State, I am disappointed and frustrated that the reporting of many media outlets concerning police officers and the wonderful and heroic things they do every day is not done in a fair and balanced manner.
That said, I think the messaging which needs to come from Police Associations concerning this issue has to be clear, in order to avoid misunderstandings or misinterpretations by the media or the public. The language of this communication, although not intended to convey anything inappropriate or unprofessional, was unfortunately subject to differing interpretations, and has thus led to accusations by some of intimidation.
I regret that an otherwise sincerely-held and legitimate belief concerning the lack of objective reporting has stirred these otherwise unsupported accusations.”