As we turn the page to a new chapter at Open Vallejo, it is with deep gratitude that we say a fond farewell to our friend and colleague, Laurence Du Sault. 

Laurence, a native of Canada, has been an integral part of our team, infusing her passion for truth and justice into every story she touched. Her meticulous commitment to the principles of investigative journalism — including her careful attention to detail and steadfast adherence to journalism ethics — has shaped the stories we have shared with our community and beyond.

Laurence first came to Open Vallejo in April 2021 as a Local Reporting Network Fellow through the generous support of the Knight Foundation and ProPublica. She became the newsroom’s first permanent employee the following July. Before working at Open Vallejo, Laurence covered economic inequality for CalMatters and the Bay Area News Group. 

Through her reporting, Laurence uncovered critical truths about Vallejo. In 2022, in an investigation co-published with ProPublica, she revealed how the Vallejo Police Department’s flawed handling of fatal police shootings allowed officers to use deadly force again before their previous cases were decided. When the California Department of Justice stepped in to improve policing in Vallejo, Laurence detailed how the reform effort soon ground to a halt, paving the way for the agency to file a pattern and practice lawsuit against the city.

Shortly before Vallejo’s first Black police chief was forced out of his position in 2022, Laurence revealed that a deputy chief had allegedly arrived at a homicide scene reeking of alcohol, as a SWAT team searched for the alleged killer; the Vallejo City Council appointed him interim chief anyway, and he went on to again make headlines by canceling a body camera analysis contract after it allegedly began to surface officers’ unprofessional behavior. And, crucially, Laurence helped expose a pattern of obstructionism by the Vallejo City Attorney’s Office that kept records of police killings hidden for years — up to and including the illegal destruction of evidence in multiple police shootings.

Open Vallejo won numerous journalism awards in the two-and-a-half years that Laurence was on staff, based in large part on her reporting. These include the Institute for Nonprofit News Community Champion Award, the Northern California Society of Professional Journalists Excellence in Journalism Awards for Community Journalism and Investigative Journalism, and the California Attorneys for Criminal Justice Journalistic Integrity Award. The organization also received recognition from some of journalism’s biggest national contests, including as a finalist for the Online News Association Knight Award for Public Service and, for the second time since Open Vallejo’s launch in 2020, a semifinalist for Harvard University’s Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.

Laurence personally won SPJ NorCal’s James Madison Freedom of Information Award in the Professional Journalist category and the national First Amendment Coalition Free Speech and Open Government Award. On Open Vallejo’s nomination, she was selected as a 2023 Online News Association Women’s Leadership fellow.

While we do this work for the community and not for the awards, these honors speak to the quality and care Laurence brought to the work, all on the community’s behalf.

As we bid adieu to Laurence, we are grateful for her many invaluable contributions. Her relentless pursuit of transparency and accountability strengthened our organization and fortified the trust our readers place in us. Her work has consistently reflected our belief in the power of journalism to effect change. She will continue to work with Open Vallejo on a freelance basis and is currently finalizing a major, years-long investigative article about the Vallejo Police Department.

Laurence, you have left an indelible mark on Open Vallejo and will be greatly missed.

Geoffrey King is the executive editor of Open Vallejo. Prior to founding Open Vallejo, Geoffrey worked as an attorney and journalist focused on free expression, open government, press freedom and privacy. He is a proud native of Vallejo, California.