Vallejo’s interim police chief plans to step down after less than 16 months in the position, Open Vallejo has learned.

Chief Jason Ta has accepted a job as the police chief for Salinas, Calif., sources with knowledge of the matter told Open Vallejo. He is the second police chief to leave Vallejo since May 2020, when the California Department of Justice began scrutinizing the “number and nature” of shootings by officers. Previously a deputy chief, Ta was thrust into the interim chief position when his predecessor, Shawny Williams, abruptly resigned in November 2022. 

The sources spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss sensitive personnel matters.

Ta did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Nor did spokespeople for the Vallejo Police Department or the cities of Vallejo or Salinas. 

The only Black chief in Vallejo’s history, Williams’ resignation came amid stalled reform efforts, ongoing staffing issues, questions about his credibility, and hostility from subordinates that allegedly included a menacing anonymous communication encouraging him to leave.

By contrast, Ta was a generally well-regarded leader, law enforcement sources told Open Vallejo. He was Vallejo’s first police chief to come into the role untouched by the city’s “Badge of Honor” scandal, revealed by Open Vallejo in 2020, in which officers would bend the tips of their star-shaped badges to mark fatal shootings. 

Yet Ta managed to enmesh himself in the controversy, after backing what officers and civilians saw as an ill-considered re-brand, including switching to shield-shaped badges that are harder to deface.

Ta might have become Vallejo’s permanent police chief, sources said, had it not been for an earlier misstep. In March of 2022, he allegedly arrived at the scene of a homicide reeking of alcohol, according to an internal memo obtained by Open Vallejo. The city’s SWAT team was still searching for the killer when Ta pulled up in a department SUV exhibiting “a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage,” as well as “slight slurring” and “watery eyes.” The city of Vallejo opened a third-party investigation into the incident, the results of which have not been announced.

Ta’s departure is likely to complicate the enforcement of a consent decree between Vallejo and the California Department of Justice, which filed a lawsuit against Vallejo after the city failed to implement most of its reform goals following a three-year collaborative review. Last year, Attorney General Rob Bonta appeared to express doubts about Ta’s ability to see the collaborative effort through. 

“We had the cooperative reform, collaborative reform approach in Vallejo,” Bonta said at a press conference in May 2023. “The police chief that we worked with on that is not there anymore. And so we’re going to have to determine what happens next.”

A source with knowledge of the matter characterized Ta’s hiring in Salinas as all but a done deal, subject to a background check, a standard practice for law enforcement and executive-level government positions.

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.