Troubling trend in Bay Area pandemic – more young people infected, ill

[Solano County’s COVID age group data doesn’t mesh with age group data given in this report.  But I can report that 10% of Solano cases are youth under 18, significantly higher than in April.  And although the 18-49 age group is 41% of the County population, it represents over 61% of total cases, by far the highest percentage of all age groups.  More Solano data here.  – R.S.]

Troubling trend in pandemic: More young people infected, ill

San Francisco Chronicle, By Catherine Ho, August 10, 2020

A young crowd attends the Juneteenth celebration at Lake Merritt in Oakland. Young people make up thefastest-growing demographic contracting the coronavirus in many regions.
A young crowd attends the Juneteenth celebration at Lake Merritt in Oakland. Young people make up the fastest-growing demographic contracting the coronavirus in many regions. Photo: Nina Riggio / Special to The Chronicle

As the coronavirus enters its eighth month, a troubling trend has emerged in the Bay Area and around the nation: More young people are getting sick, in numbers so large that in some regions they now make up the largest and fastest-growing demographic contracting the virus.

It marks a dramatic shift from the narrative that dominated the early weeks of the pandemic, when health experts emphasized that older adults, in part due to the higher likelihood of chronic health conditions, were most at risk of falling ill.

“We are seeing increased rates of infection among young adults,” Santa Clara County public health officer Dr. Sara Cody said at a July county board of supervisors meeting. “It’s where the epidemic is spreading the most quickly. … This is disproportionately accelerating among young adults.”

In six Bay Area counties, people in their 30s or younger make up the largest proportion of cases. In San Francisco, for instance, 18-to-40-year-olds represent 48% of all cases; in Santa Clara County, 20-39­year-olds represent 39% of all cases. Anecdotally, the region’s medical clinics are reporting a major uptick in younger people coming in with COVID-19 symptoms like shortness of breath, fever and cough.

Statewide, the number of cases among people ages 18 to 34 shot up 1358% between May 1 and Aug. 1, from 12,373 to 180,354 — representing an increase from 24% of all cases to 35% of all cases, according to the California Department of Public Health. During the same period, the number of cases among people 65 and older grew more slowly, 387%, from 11,547 to 56,206 — representing a drop from 22% of all cases to 11% of all cases.

At the Stanford coronavirus outpatient clinic, the proportion of patients under age 40 has more than doubled since April, from about 25% to 55%, said Dr. Maja Artandi, the clinic’s medical director.

In the South Bay, Kaiser is seeing more patients under age 30 getting hospitalized with COVID-19, which was unusual during the first surge in March. And more patients in their 20s are also seeking medical care for the virus from their primary care doctors.

“It’s worrisome,” said Dr. Charu Ramaprasad, an infectious disease physician in Kaiser’s San Jose Medical Center, who has been leading much of the health system’s coronavirus response.

Health officials and physicians have not pinpointed exactly why younger adults appear to be driving the latest surge in infections. But many believe it is likely because young people have been going out more — either for jobs that require them to interact with the public frequently, or in social settings — and are being more lax about social distancing and wearing masks.

And younger people may experience less severe symptoms, which may lead them to think it’s OK to gather with friends if they have just a minor cough or a scratchy throat, said Dr. Aisha Mays, medical director of the Dream Youth Clinic at Roots Community Health Center in Oakland.

“We have seen our young folks have a false sense of security that make them more susceptible to contracting COVID,” Mays said. “In the beginning, we were really concerned about our elderly population because they are so much more susceptible to the negative effects of COVID, including death. At the same time, it might have sent an unintended message to our young people that they were more immune to contracting COVID.

“We know that’s not true. We know young people can still contract COVID as easily as anyone else.”

People in their 20s and 30s are less likely to be hospitalized or die from the coronavirus than people in their 60s and 70s. Eight out of 10 coronavirus-related deaths in the United States have been among adults 65 or older, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And hospitalization rates for people between 18 to 29 years old are 56 per 100,000, compared to 281 per 100,000 for people between 65 and 74 years old.

Still, many young people have symptoms severe enough to send them to the emergency room or intensive care. And even if they have mild symptoms, they still risk exposing older family members or friends who may get much sicker from the virus.

One of them is Tyler Lopez, 27, who in June began experiencing fatigue and chest congestion and lost his sense of smell. Lopez tested positive for the coronavirus, quarantined for 10 days and felt like he had recovered — but was soon hit with a second and much more severe wave of symptoms.

His heart rate repeatedly shot up to above 120, at times going as high as 140, even when he was sitting or lying down, and he had a fever and chest pain so bad it felt like the inside of his chest was inflamed, he said.

Lopez, who lives in Riverside, was admitted to a hospital twice. Doctors ran tests and concluded the COVID-19 infection likely caused inflammation in the tissue surrounding the heart, and that he could’ve gone into cardiac arrest if the medication he received at the hospital had not reduced the inflammation fast enough, he said.

“It’s just crazy what COVID can do,” said Lopez, who was released from the hospital last week and is recovering at home. He plans to go back to his doctor next week to see if he can get cleared to return to work — nearly two months after he first noticed symptoms. “The past couple months, it totally changed my life.”

Before he got sick, Lopez said, he did not take the virus seriously and continued going to the gym and meeting up with friends.

“I was like, ‘It’s not that big of a deal, whatever, if I get it, I get it,’ ” he said. “I was just living life without taking that extra precaution.”

He now wishes he had been more careful.

“It jacked me up,” he said. “I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy.”

Local health officials recently launched initiatives to urge people in their teens and 20s to practice social distancing, wear masks and limit activities to the outdoors like biking or hiking. Contra Costa County beginning Aug. 10 will start training hundreds of youth ambassadors to help get the message out to their peers.

A regional effort led by seven Bay Area public health departments, Crushing the Curve, has a similar aim.

Brandi House, 19, will participate in both programs as a youth leader. She said many of her acquaintances and coworkers have been going to parties during the pandemic, not believing the virus is serious or that they will get sick. She hopes to help dispel such attitudes.

“The message I’d like to put out for young people is to know this is real,” said House, of Richmond. “I know a lot of people not believing COVID is real. I know people that are still going to parties and stuff. I’m like, ‘Why are you going to parties during this time?’

“There’s a lot of people that have been getting sick and passing from it. That’s one message I want to get out.”

What does the Benicia City Manager do? By Lorie Tinfow

[Our current Benicia City Manager, Lorie Tinfow, is said by many to be the most highly qualified and best City Manager we’ve ever had.  She has brought stability in staffing, visionary planning and tough financial oversight in these hard times.  I hope she stays for a long, long time!  In today’s email newsletter, City of Benicia This Week, Lorie describes the work she does as our City Manager, published here with permission.  Incredible!  We should ALL be glad we’re not juggling everything she deals with every day.  Read on….  – R.S.]

City of Benicia This Week
read it – watch it – like it – share it

August 10, 2020

Hello Everyone,

Lorie Tinfow, Benicia City Manager

During a recent conversation with the Mayor, she asked if I thought people in Benicia knew what my job as the City Manager actually entailed. I said, “no”. In fact, even my mother didn’t know what I do until about 4 years ago. I was visiting my parents and while there I was sending an email on my smart phone. My mom said, “Honey, what are you doing?” and I responded, “Sending an email to the Police Chief.” She looked puzzled and then said, “You’re in charge of the Police Chief?”  I said, “Yes, and the Fire Chief, the Public Works Director, etc.” She said, “I thought you were a City planner.”

That reaction wasn’t a total surprise. City Managers tend to be in the background and mostly we like it that way. The Council/Manager form of government that Benicia (and most California cities) operates under has the City Council as the face of the City to the community, where it sets the policy direction and the City Manager implements that direction. Because of this structure, community members often don’t know much about what City Managers do. At the Mayor’s suggestion, I decided to share some information here.

One way to think of a City Manager is to compare the City to a company structure-think of me as the CEO of a $90 million non-profit corporation that provides critical services to everyone who lives or has a business in Benicia. Other executive level staff report to me and help me oversee all City operations. The Finance Director could be compared to the Chief Financial Officer, the Assistant City Manager is similar to a Chief Operating Officer and so on. Of course, there are major differences between running a City and running a business so the comparison isn’t perfect-for example, there’s really no private sector version of a Fire Chief or a Police Chief, and private sector businesses are not required to operate with the public sector’s breadth of service delivery, transparency rules, limits on pricing, and required service to all.

I’ve worked in city government for almost 25 years. My experience is broad and that’s necessary to be successful in this position. The work is fast-paced so knowledge and expertise about a variety of areas is important in order to keep the City moving. I’ve overseen many functional areas such as Human Resources, Information Technology, Finance and Economic Development. I’ve been the project manager for the construction of two large scale capital projects (the Saratoga Library and the Walnut Creek Library) and led many community-based efforts around traffic calming, community problem-solving, communication, etc. If you’re interested in knowing more, my resume at the time I was hired is attached here.

One of my primary responsibilities is delivering a balanced budget to the City Council and overseeing the City finances. I also enforce all the laws, ordinances and contracts; hire and supervise directly all the department directors; make staffing decisions related to all employee positions (except the City Attorney); negotiate labor contracts; conduct studies, reorganize work and exercise general supervision over all public buildings, parks and property. In all hiring decisions, I am always looking to recruit top talent from an increasingly small, competitive pool of qualified people. In short, I’m responsible for all the operational elements of the City. And, I serve as the Emergency Services Director during emergencies.

I also provide leadership by supporting and guiding the City Council through establishing its vision and helping to translate that into a work plan. In the City organization, my leadership is often a blend of overseeing the day-to-day activities with keeping an eye on the shifting long-term needs that require change and innovation.

I first learned what a “City Manager” was during an undergraduate class at Stanford taught by two City Managers.  I was already interested in government and this position intrigued me-serving the community and being part of something bigger than myself was attractive. As I continued into graduate school at Harvard and ultimately decided on working in city government, I stayed focused on becoming a City Manager. It’s a very challenging job and a very rewarding one.

So, now you know something more about what I do and how the City is structured.  Let me know if you have any questions.

Thank you for your interest in the City of Benicia This Week!

Lorie Tinfow,
City Manager

100,000 children have the virus – thank goodness Benicia Schools will open Aug 17 with distance learning only

[For latest info on Benicia Schools see August 6 Virtual Plan Update. For other BUSD information see Reopening / COVID Response. – R.S.] 

Children and the virus: As schools reopen, much remains unknown about the risk to kids and the peril they pose to others

Washington Post, by Haisten Willis, Chelsea Janes and  Ariana Eunjung Cha, August 10, 2020
Parent Amanda Seghetti was concerned when photos on social media showed students — bereft of masks and not observing social distancing — crowding Georgia schools last week. (Lynsey Weatherspoon for The Washington Post)

DALLAS, Ga. — The photos showed up on social media just hours into the first day of school: 80 beaming teens in front of Etowah High School near Atlanta, with not a mask on a single face and hardly six inches of distance between them — let alone the recommended six feet.

Amanda Seghetti, a mom in the area, said her parent Facebook group lit up when the pictures of the seniors were posted. Some people thought the images were cute. Others freaked out. Seghetti was in the latter constituency.

“It’s like they think they are immune and are in denial about everything,” Seghetti said.

Pictures of packed school hallways in Georgia and news of positive tests on the first day of classes in Indiana and Mississippi sparked the latest fraught discussions over the risk the coronavirus presents to children — and what’s lost by keeping them home from school. Friday brought reports of more infections among Georgia students, with dozens forced into quarantine in Cherokee County, among other places.

For months, parents and teachers, epidemiologists and politicians have chimed in with their views on the many still-unanswered questions about the extent to which the virus is a threat to children — and the extent to which they can fuel its spread.

A report from leading pediatric health groups found that more than 97,000 U.S. children tested positive for the coronavirus in the last two weeks of July, more than a quarter of the total number of children diagnosed nationwide since March. As of July 30, there were 338,982 cases reported in children since the dawn of the pandemic, according to data from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association.

President Trump has repeatedly maintained the virus poses little threat to children.

“The fact is they are virtually immune from this problem,” Trump said Wednesday in an interview with Axios.

Eight months after the World Health Organization received the first report of a “pneumonia of unknown cause” in China, much remains uncertain about the coronavirus and children.

Doctors are more confident that most children exposed to the virus are unlikely to have serious illness, a sentiment backed by a report published Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that concluded children are far less likely to be hospitalized with covid-19, the illness caused by the virus, than adults. But when children do fall seriously sick, the burden of illness is borne disproportionately: That same CDC report concluded that Hispanic children are approximately eight times more likely and Black children five times more likely to be hospitalized with covid-19 than their White peers.

Early studies on children and the virus were small and conflicting. But accumulating evidence suggests the coronavirus may affect younger children differently than older ones.

For example,doctors say themultisystem inflammatorysyndrome linked to the virus — known as MIS-C —that has appeared in some children weeks after infectionpresents differently in younger children than in teens and young adults. Infants and preschoolers who have been diagnosed with the syndrome have symptoms mirroring Kawasaki, a disease of unknown cause that inflames blood vessels.In the older group, the consequences appear more severe, with doctors describing it more like a shock syndrome that has led to heart failure and even death.

Several studies suggest adolescence could mark a turning point for how the virus affects youths — and their ability to spread the pathogen.

One paper published in July in the journal JAMA Pediatrics found that children younger than 5 with mild to moderatecases ofcovid-19 had much higher levels of virus in their noses than older children and adults — suggesting they could be more infectious. That study, conducted by doctors at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, used data from 145 children tested at drive-through sites in that region.

A study out of South Korea examining household transmission also found age-based differences in children. Puzzlingly, it seemed to reach an opposite conclusion about transmission than the Chicago researchers did. Children under age 10 did not appear to pass on the virus readily, while those between 10 and 19 appeared to transmit the virus almost as much as adults did.

Max Lau, an epidemiologist at Emory University tracking superspreader events in the state in collaboration with the Georgia Department of Public Health, said two striking trends have emerged even as work continues on an analysis of recent data.

Disease detectives have found relatively few infections among young children even after the state loosened its coronavirus-related shutdown. Researchers elsewhere have noted there hasn’t been a clear, documented case of a young child triggering an outbreak. In contrast, cases spiked among 15- to 25-year-olds, suggesting they may be driving the spread of the virus.

“When the shelter-in-place lifted, they perceived that they could go back to normal life and that’s what I observed,” Lau said.

In May, Jerusalem’s Gymnasia Ha’ivrit high school was the center of a major outbreak that public health officials said seeded transmission to other neighborhoods. In June, an overnight YMCA camp in Georgia was forced to close after 260 of 597 children and staff members tested positive for the virus — an event some experts heralded as a parable for what can happen when young people are allowed to gather without being attentive to wearing masks or maintaining physical distance. At that camp, the first to come down with symptoms and be sent home was a teenage counselor.

Other gatherings among teens have led to smaller outbreaks. In New Jersey, it was a party at a country club that left at least 20 teens infected. In Michigan, health officials said more than 100 teens in three counties have tested positive since mid-July following graduations and other parties.

Sadiya S. Khan, an assistant professor of cardiology and preventive medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, said social practices, rather than biology, may explain why teens and young adults appear to be spreading infection.

“They are more likely to be out and about. They are more likely to not have experienced any consequences,” Khan said. “There has been a lot of attention to the fact that people who are older have a worse course and if you’re young, it doesn’t feel as dangerous, so they might think, ‘Why be as careful?’ ”

Khan said she worries schools that don’t enforce mask-wearing and social distancing can be laboratories for superspreader events rippling out to the broader community.

For years, the flu vaccine was targeted to adults. Then, researchers recognized the role of children in spreading the virus and advised they be inoculated. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Medical history tells us that children’s role in infectious diseases is not always what we first assume. In 1960, in response to significant deaths among the elderly during the 1957-1958 influenza pandemic, the surgeon general recommended flu vaccines for people 65 and older. It wasn’t until decades later that studies showed that mortality among older people could be reduced by vaccinating the young. In 2002, the CDC recommended flu shots for infants and in 2008 expanded that to school-age children.

With the coronavirus pandemic, like any disease outbreak, research takes time, and experts say decisions being made about reopening schools are necessarily being made without the full picture of the risk the virus poses to children.

For example, the CDC’s study of that Georgia YMCA camp did not include detailed tracing of how cases spread among campgoers. Did one teenage counselor spread the virus to the whole camp? Did that counselor infect a few younger children, who in turn infected other younger children?

Similarly, that study did not document what happened to families of the infected when the children returned home. Did they bring the virus back to their families, thereby dispelling the notion that children do not transmit the virus to adults? Or, if infections did spread, was it simply the result of high viral prevalence in Georgia, and not the result of contact with a campgoer?

As the case of the Georgia camp illustrates, measuring the risk younger children face in returning to school continues to be an inexact art. Parents are left with the agonizing and anxiety-riddled task of evaluating that potential peril for themselves. And they must weigh the potential health risks of the virus against the educational, social, developmental and economic consequences of children remaining out of the classroom.

Teachers unions from Florida to Ohio have protested plans to fully reopen schools, arguing that even if a few months of data suggests children are not likely to suffer severe outcomes from the virus, they could still pass it to vulnerable adults.

On Aug. 2 — hours before the first day of school — the principal of North Paulding High School near Atlanta sent a letter to parents informing them of coronavirus infections on the football team. Video on the Facebook page for the team’s parent-run booster club showed members of the team, with no masks or distance between them, lifting in a weight room as part of a fundraising event a week earlier.

On the first day of school, students posted a picture of hallways crammed with unmasked classmates. One student was initially suspended for posting the pictures. The school overturned that suspension Friday.

Within days, the school burst into the national spotlight, and the issue spawned heated arguments in a local Facebook group called “What’s Happening Paulding,” with parents occasionally descending into name-calling and expletive-laced tirades as they argued over whether the pictures should warrant concern. Sunday night, North Paulding High sent a letter to parents announcing the school would be closed to in-person learning for at least two days because of nine cases of the coronavirus.

John Cochran, the father of a ninth-grader and middle-schooler in the Georgia school system, said in an interview he felt it wasn’t safe for his children to attend school in person, in part because multiple adults in their family are immunocompromised.

“That was one thing we stressed to the kids — they’ve got too many adults that they are regularly in contact with who could be in bad shape if they pick this up from them,” Cochran said. “Personally, I didn’t want that on my kids’ conscience that they went to school and got their mother, stepdad, dad or grandparents sick.”

Seghetti has decided to keep son Kaiden, 11, out of his Georgia school.
Seghetti has decided to keep son Kaiden, 11, out of his Georgia school. (Lynsey Weatherspoon for The Washington Post)

In Georgia’s Cherokee County, where the 80 students gathered for that unmasked photo, Seghetti said she knows she’s in the minority in deciding to keep her 11-year-old son, Kaiden, home from school.

Seghetti said after seeing photos shared by parents from inside schools and learning that two elementary campuses in the district already had reported coronavirus cases — a second-grader Tuesday and a first-grader Wednesday — she is confident she made the right decision. Cherokee County schools spokeswoman Barbara P. Jacoby said the schools have implemented changes to try to keep students safe, including staggering bell times to avoid hall crowding and providing students with two masks each they can wear if they wish.

Karin Jessop’s two children, ages 12 and 13, attended that YMCA day camp at Lake Burton where the residential camp outbreak unfolded. Her children, who were at the camp for four weeks but came home each night, did not get infected; the outbreak was among those who stayed overnight, another reminder of the unpredictability of the spread.

Jessop, a technology company executive, said after news of the outbreak broke, “a lot of moms were getting stressed out about making the wrong decision and worried what people will think.”

“At the end of the day, it’s your family,” she said, adding she believes staying home affects her children’s development, which makes the camp experience worth the risk.

“Many of these kids have been home since March, and if you have super gregarious, extroverted kids, they are used to and need that interaction.”

Vallejo police officers may go unpunished for bending badges

Vallejo cops accused of bending badges to mark kills may be bulletproof from consequences

San Francisco Chronicle, by Rachel Swan & Demian Bulwa, Aug. 9, 2020
Police investigate a shooting involving a Vallejo officer in 2016. Now the police chief is opening an “official inquiry” into a report that officers have bent their badges to mark on-duty killings. Chris Preovolos / Hearst Newspapers 2016

Vallejo police officers accused of bending their badges to commemorate their killings may be immune from consequences because the city waited too long to investigate, according to legal experts and the attorney for the fired ex-captain who blew the whistle on the purported practice.

Police Chief Shawny Williams said last week that his department is opening an “official inquiry” into allegations by a former police captain that some officers bent the tips of their seven-point stars, which he said would amount to misconduct. “I’m not going to tolerate something like that,” Williams said.

But the state’s Peace Officers’ Bill of Rights sets a one-year deadline for taking disciplinary action against officers after police officials learn of alleged misconduct. That sets up a potential legal fight in Vallejo if badge-bending officers are identified.

The ex-captain, John Whitney, who was second-in-command in the Vallejo force, said through his attorney that he learned of the badge-bending ritual in April 2019, informed then-Chief Andrew Bidou that month and unsuccessfully sought an investigation. Whitney was fired four months later.

His attorney, Alison Berry Wilkinson, said that before his ouster he ordered supervisors to inspect officers’ uniforms and collect any bent badges. After 10 badges were turned in and held in a box in the office of Bidou’s executive assistant, Wilkinson said, Bidou told Whitney the repair costs could raise suspicion and cost him his job. Instead, the chief had the badges returned to officers, who were to fix them on their own, Wilkinson said.

“We’re skeptical that any investigation of badge-bending will be effective in holding any officer accountable, both because they destroyed the evidence of the misconduct, by returning the badges to the officers, and because the statute of limitations has expired,” Wilkinson said.

She said then-Chief Bidou and Vallejo City Manager Greg Nyhoff “were aware of the badge-bending in April 2019 but did nothing. The statute of limitations runs from the date of discovery. Anyone involved can now deny it with impunity.”

Assistant City Manager Anne Cardwell told The Chronicle on July 28 that the city is aware of previous complaints about badge-bending.

“In conferring this evening with the City Manager,” Cardwell wrote, “he noted that the Mayor had advised him last year regarding rumors of such a prior practice in years past at the Police Dept., and that he, the City Manager, then immediately consulted with former Police Chief Bidou, who indicated it had been previously investigated and such claims had not been substantiated.”

Attempts to reach Bidou and Nyhoff were unsuccessful Friday. Williams said the investigation would go on regardless of these concerns.

“There is no statute of limitations on moral obligations,” he said. “The ethical standards of conduct and the moral imperative to honor dignity and life exceeds legal statutes of limitations. As chief of police, it is my responsibility to uncover the truth, increase trust through accountability and take corrective actions when warranted.”

A badge-bending investigation could be important for reasons besides discipline, if it led to changes in department policies or mended public distrust. It could also be driven by a desire to improve training, said San Francisco union attorney Gregg Adam, who has represented police officers in disciplinary proceedings and has no involvement with the Vallejo case.

Still, Adam agreed with Wilkinson’s analysis, saying she “is 100% correct.”

“The chief is quoting from the gospel, not the Peace Officers’ Bill of Rights,” Adam said.

California legislators enacted the one-year deadline to force police agencies to promptly address misconduct.

The statute carries several exceptions that can allow the one-year limit to be extended, including if an allegation is also the subject of a pending criminal investigation or lawsuit or if an investigation “involves more than one employee and requires a reasonable extension.” But authorities would need to show they were stymied by one of these factors.

Adam noted that the statute’s clock starts ticking when someone of sufficient authority “knew or should have known” about the alleged misconduct. And the person initiating the investigation doesn’t necessarily have to be a chief or city manager, Adam said. It could have been Whitney himself.

“If a captain knew about it, there’s a strong argument that that’s when the clock started,” he said.

Vallejo Mayor Bob Sampayan insisted there is no statute of limitations on the issue, and that Vallejo is still pursuing it. Bidou’s successor, Chief Williams, who was sworn in in November, has hired an outside investigator to do a “deep dive analysis into this culture of the bent badge,” Sampayan said.

He recalled feeling alarmed and distressed when Whitney approached him with the allegations, some time after he’d purportedly gone to Bidou.

Sampayan is a former police officer who joined Vallejo’s force in 1985 and trained many in the rank and file — including Whitney, he said. He’s frustrated with the recent string of alleged misdeeds in the city.

“If indeed they come up with things, then people will be disciplined,” the mayor said. “My position is because these have all been people of color that have been shot, I’m curious if this is not a civil rights violation” that could initiate an investigation by state Attorney General Xavier Becerra.

“This isn’t right to me — you don’t do this,” Sampayan said. “I’m appalled, I’m angered, and this is not what policing is all about.”

Whitney, who now works for another Bay Area police agency, is planning to sue Vallejo for wrongful termination after filing a legal claim seeking back pay, benefits, attorneys’ fees and $25,000. He says he was targeted for speaking out.

According to his claim, the city tied his firing to an investigation into a leak of confidential information, saying he improperly erased data from his phone amid the probe. Whitney said he had only erased personal information; he was exonerated in the leak case, Wilkinson said.

The Peace Officers’ Bill of Rights came into play during a 2015 scandal in San Francisco, in which several police officers were accused of exchanging racist, sexist and homophobic text messages.

Sent in 2011 and 2012, the texts included “white power” jeers and slurs against African Americans. Department brass learned about the content when it surfaced during a corruption investigation in 2012, but did not disclose it to the public until March 2015. At that point, Chief Greg Suhr announced he would fire nine of the officers involved, and discipline others.

A San Francisco Superior Court judge halted the disciplinary proceedings that December, however, ruling that the one-year time limit had run out. A state appeals court overturned that decision in 2018. In the 3-0 decision, Justice Martin Jenkins argued that the messages “displayed unacceptable prejudice against members of the communities SFPD is sworn to protect.”

At least one Vallejo police officer involved in a pending disciplinary case is seeking to assert the one-year deadline, according to Solano County Superior Court records.

In a court filing last month on behalf of an unnamed officer, attorney Justin Buffington said he was seeking to prevent the city from “imposing discipline that is time-barred by the relevant statute of limitations.” A judge sealed details of the case, and Buffington did not respond to requests for comment.

Rachel Swan and Demian Bulwa are San Francisco Chronicle staff writers.