Vallejo police chief retiring, amidst recent criticism of police use of force

A Bay Area police chief whose department has paid out millions in civil rights lawsuits while also facing ongoing allegations of excessive force and racial profiling by his officers on Wednesday announced he is leaving the force after a decades-long career in law enforcement. 

Vallejo Police Chief Andrew Bidou has led the department since the fall of 2014 after serving as the chief of the Benicia Police Department for four years. Prior to that, he worked for the Newark Police Department, where he rose from the ranks of police officer to captain.

Bidou has set his retirement date as April 30, though a city spokeswoman said he will stay on as part-time acting police chief for several months while the city finds a new police department leader 

The chief denied an interview with KTVU, but said in a statement that representing the men and women of the Vallejo Police Department has been “the pinnacle of my career.” 

EXCLUSIVE: Off-duty Vallejo police officer pulls gun on man in Walnut Creek

“I feel privileged to have witnessed many acts of courage and compassion from so many members of the Vallejo Police Department during my time as chief,’’ the statement said. “I am grateful for the benevolence and support shown to me and the police department by the citizens of Vallejo.” 

Joanna Altman, assistant to the city manager, said Bidou has been thinking about retirement for some time and his departure is not linked to any alleged wrongdoing by Vallejo’s officers or the fact that a 2018 East Bay Express investigation found out the of the nine major police departments in the Bay Area “only Vallejo police, a department with roughly 100 officers, paid more per officer in civil rights cases than (all of) Alameda County.”

City public documents obtained by 2 Investigates show that since 2011, Vallejo police have cost the city more than $7 million in legal settlements, including the most high-profile case: a $2.5 million settlement to Denise Huskins and her then-fiancé Aaron Quinn, the couple at the center of a 2015 bizarre Vallejo kidnapping and sexual assault that police initially dismissed as a faked abduction.  

Matthew Muller is currently serving 40 years after being convicted in federal court of kidnapping Huskins. Muller is now being tried in Solano County Superior Court on state charges of kidnapping for ransom, forcible rape and other charges in connection with the case.

Huskins recently testified in excruciating detail how Muller invaded the couple’s Vallejo home in March 2015, drugged them and put blacked-out swim goggles on them. She said Muller raped her twice in a South Lake Tahoe cabin before releasing her near her father’s home in Southern California.

Police, at the time, called the ordeal a hoax, but eventually apologized for their mistake. The city of Vallejo never admitted any wrongdoing when the case was settled last spring. 

More recently, a Concord father filed a claim against Vallejo alleging false arrest, excessive force, battery and assault by police Officer David McLaughlin.  2 Investigates broke that story.

The claim, generally a precursor to a lawsuit, was filed last month by Santiago Hutchins who was attending his teen son’s birthday party at a restaurant last year when he was held at gunpoint by McLaughlin, who was off duty at the time.  

The ordeal began when McLaughlin asked, “What are you looking at?” before pulling out his gun and holding it on the man for several minutes,the man said. Video obtained exclusively by 2 Investigates shows Hutchins shouting at the officer with his hands up, “Shoot me. Shoot me. You know you want to do it.”

Minutes later, back-up officers arrived and video shows that’s when McLaughlin took down Hutchins, delivering punches and elbow to the unarmed man. 

Bidou initially told KTVU”s 2 Investigates that he believed Hutchins was the aggressor. The chief has not commented on the case since it happened last August.

McLaughlin is the same officer under fire for detaining a young Vallejo man for recording a traffic stop from his front porch in January.  Adrian Burrell, a former Marine, posted the cellphone video of his experience and the clip went viral. 

Vallejo launched Internal Affairs investigations into both of the incidents. Following the 2 Investigates reporting, police put McLaughlin on administrative leave in early February. Vallejo police have not commented further on the internal investigations. But 2 Investigates has filed public records requests seeking more information.