Tonn is alleged to be part of a group of officers at the Vallejo Police Department who had their badges bent after being involved in a shooting. The practice is believed to have ended in the year before Monterrosa’s death, but Tonn was involved in three previous shootings. The practice was revealed in July 2020, after an investigation by Open Vallejo. The Vallejo Police Officers’ Association claimed, in a letter obtained by the Vallejo Times-Herald, that the practice was not meant to mark each killing but rather to honor an officer surviving a shooting, regardless of whether it was fatal.“My sergeant, after my first officer-involved shooting, said wouldn’t it be nice if you could look around and see a visual indicator of people you can trust in a moment of chaos? And then he took my badge, and he bent it,” Joshua Coleman, a former officer who worked at the department for ten years, told VICE News. The death of a Vallejo officer on duty in November 2011, James Capoot, was a major blow to the department’s morale, which had already been low due to the department going bankrupt in 2008, leading to the size of its police force being cut in half. Since then, the department has struggled to hire officers to fill its vacancies. The city also has more than double the national violent crime rate—in 2019, there were 845 violent crimes per 100,000 people in Vallejo.
“It hurts to hear my mom when she cries about coming here and knowing that you still live in a place where the state basically murdered your only son.”
But not everyone views the practice as positive. After growing criticism, the Vallejo police chief launched an independent third-party investigation into the practice of badge-bending in July 2020. And even though it was completed in mid-September 2021, its findings haven’t been released.“It was a status that people wanted to earn. And it was a way in which to prove oneself. Recognitions of that nature create incentives, and they normalize conduct,” Filloy said of the practice.
“What I needed was validation. And in that moment, after that shooting, I felt validated.”