David Wilson of Oakland spent last summer making “Green House Calls” as part of the Climate Careers program with Rising Sun Center for Opportunity. He installed LED light bulbs, water-saving showerheads and faucet aerators, as well as checking for toilet leaks. And he provided another valuable service: information.
“Some people didn’t understand the bigger picture — when you tell someone about climate change that’s a huge umbrella that warrants more questions,” Wilson said. “I didn’t mind sitting down with people and telling them more, small steps they could take — and sometimes, they share the information with others.”
The Climate Careers program is a win-win situation: the house calls are free, and the young people in the program, like Wilson, gain valuable work experience — and a paycheck. Rising Sun, based in both Oakland and Stockton, is a nonprofit, and is supported by the Bank of America Charitable Foundation.
Rising Sun’s earn-and-learn program is open to youth, aged 15 to 24, from low-income households, and gives them the opportunity to gain paid, hands-on work experience while taking climate action. Professional development workshops and coaching round out the summer. Almost 1,900 young people have come through Climate Careers since the program started in the year 2000.
Wilson also worked as an electrification extern, researching the feasibility and potential benefits of adopting induction cooktops in Bay Area homes. Today, he is taking his interest in the environment in a new direction — he is studying at San Francisco State and hopes to become a naturalist.
Rising Sun also offers a program for low-income adults who are un- or under-employed; Opportunity Build is a 10- to 12-week construction training program in Oakland. Graduates transition to careers in union trades, becoming sheet metal workers, operating engineers, carpenters and more — careers with family-sustaining wages, upward mobility, and benefits.
For long-term success, Opportunity Build covers essential life skills including financial capability, accountability, time management and effective communication; job-seeking skills such as resume and cover letter writing; and interview practice and networking.
Opportunity Build also includes one of the few all-women, pre-apprenticeship programs in the nation, Women Building the Bay, which is key to the graduates’ success in a field where 97 percent of their coworkers are men. Women in the U.S. earn on average 83 cents for each male dollar, but this gender pay gap does not exist in the trades, where pay rates are fixed by experience level.
Bank of America has donated $200,000 to Rising Sun so that it can continue to prepare youth and adults to begin careers that make a difference for families and the planet.
As part of the Bank of America Neighborhood Builders program, both Julia Hatton, Rising Sun president and CEO, and Alejandro Castelan, the associate director of Climate Careers, Bay Area, will engage in leadership development to maximize the organization’s impact.
“Investing in Rising Sun itself — in the people who deliver our direct services, work alongside our participants, and develop the programs we run — is what allows us to move the needle on economic mobility and climate resilience in the communities we work with,” Hatton said.
Gioia McCarthy, Bank of America’s San Francisco-East Bay president explained why the Bank chose to support this program.
“Rising Sun continues to create solid pathways to success for youth and adults alike,” McCarthy said. “Rising Sun’s unique way of addressing economic inequity by focusing on one of our planet’s biggest challenges — the climate — opens the door to long-term career options for those who are part of their comprehensive programs.”
Here’s how the community can support this program:
CINQTECH Nigeria Limited, an indigenous procurement, IT and engineering service company has bagged ISO 9001, 2015 certification in recognition of its operational, management and organisational effectiveness which aligns with international best practices.
The quality management system certification which covers leadership, planning, support, operation, performance, evaluation among other criteria was conferred on the company by BQSR, globally recognised ISO Certification body.
The certification followed a comprehensive audit and evaluation exercise conducted by BQSR, a certification body accredited by International Accreditation Service (IAS) USA, a member of IAF.
Speaking on the certification, Chief Executive Officer, CINQTECH Nigeria Limited, Babatunde Fafore, attributed the certification to the strong commitment and professionalism as well as operational, management and organizational effectiveness exhibited by the company.
“This certification means a lot to us as a business and clearly demonstrates our commitment to values of excellence in delivery of product and services to all our clients. Our processes, policies and business activities were audited to ensure compliance to requirements of the standard. We have truly shown our unalloyed commitment to best practices and compliance in what we do. In view of this, we are very excited about this achievement as we continue to make positive strides in the industry”, Fafore said.
He stated that the certification represents a big milestone that would help to boost the professional capability of the staff members and Strengthen clients’ satisfaction.
Since its incorporation, CINQTECH Nigeria Limited has been involved in the provision of a wide range of services to a number of companies and individuals in the Oil and Gas, Banks and construction industries.
BQSR is a globally recognized ISO Certification body and has a specialized wide pool of auditors and technical experts in each field to conduct audits at clients across various industries like construction, manufacturing, software, food and service sector companies. It has global presence in more than 20 countries including the USA, UK, Romania, Singapore, Italy, Peru, Mexico, UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Indonesia, Thailand, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and India.
First Nations leaders say there is both the technology and the resources available to make finding the remains of two murdered Indigenous women a possibility and disputed any notion that a search for the remains of those women should not happen because it is not “feasible.”
“We know the technology exists to make it possible,” Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) Grand Chief Garrison Settee said in a statement released jointly late Thursday by MKO, The Southern Chiefs Organization (SCO), the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC), and the Assembly of First Nations (AFN).
According to the organizations, in November the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP), which is based in Prague, was engaged with Canadian officials to assist in the response to the discovery of suspected unmarked graves near former residential schools.
They believe the ICMP could be helpful in searching the Prairie Green Landfill for the remains of Marcedes Myran and Morgan Harris, two Indigenous women who are believed to have been victims of an alleged serial killer, and whose bodies police believe are in the landfill located near the town of Stony Mountain, north of Winnipeg.
“We know the ICMP can help locate remains,” Southern Chiefs Organization Grand Chief Jerry Daniels said.
“ICMP works in countries to help identify people who have gone missing or been killed by providing resources, technology, support, and training to aid in finding missing persons.”
The media release came out on the same day Long Plain First Nation Chief Kyra Wilson, and several First Nations leaders publicly called for the resignation of Winnipeg police (WPS) Chief Danny Smyth, after WPS said earlier this week they had no plans to search the landfill for the remains of Myran and Harris.
Last week WPS announced new charges against alleged serial killer Jeremy Anthony Michael Skibicki in the deaths of Myran and Harris and an unidentified woman being referred to by the community as Buffalo Woman. Skibicki was already facing a first-degree murder charge in the death of Rebecca Contois. The women are all believed to have been killed between March and May of 2022.
Smyth told reporters on Tuesday that investigators believe the remains of Myran and Harris, who are both members of the Long Plain First Nation, are in the Prairie Green Landfill but said WPS does not plan to do a search of the landfill because they do not believe one is “feasible,” as their forensics unit sees little hope of a successful recovery.
But some renewed hopes for a search came later, as Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson and Winnipeg Mayor Scott Gillingham announced late Thursday that Waste Connections had agreed to pause operations at the landfill, while they look at what the “next steps” could be.
Settee said that if WPS continue to stand by their decision, then he believes the province and the federal government should step in and do what they can to make the searches happen as soon as possible.
“If the Winnipeg police do not devote the time and resources to searching for our missing and murdered women, then the Governments of Canada and Manitoba should immediately provide the resources to allow our First Nations to bring these victims home to their families,” Settee said.
“It needs to happen now, because we refuse to stand idly by while landfills become unmarked graves for our women.”
And according to AMC Grand Chief Kathy Merrick, there is the technology to find the women’s remains, but there are also examples of similar efforts that have succeeded in the past, despite what she said were “even more obstacles.”
According to Merrick there is a latest case at the Green Lane Landfill in Ontario where the remains of a Toronto man were uncovered in January of 2021, after investigators had been searching that landfill for more than seven years.
She said the operation, which ran for 87 months, included “extensive searching that required excavation, multiple police units and search dogs, emergency management, and ongoing coordination to bring justice for this missing individual and his family.”
Merrick believes similar efforts here in Manitoba could help to find the remains of Myran and Harris and return them to their families.
“This outcome is possible for Marcedes Myran and Morgan Harris too,” she said.
The Winnipeg Sun reached out to both the city and the province on Friday to ask what next steps might be taken after the Thursday announcement that operations at the landfill were temporarily suspended, but spokespersons for both said there were no new updates as of Friday afternoon.
— Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.
OXFORD — As an educational technician for Oxford Hills Middle School, Jon Bolduc provides individualized support for students and teachers in the classroom each day. Outside of school hours, he’s working toward becoming a teacher.
It isn’t easy returning to school at 29. Bolduc has a wife, a life and lingering student loans from his undergraduate degree to manage. But a new pilot program led by faculty at the University of Southern Maine is making it a little easier for some like Bolduc to get their teaching certification.
The new Maine Teacher Residency program provides financial and educational support for student teachers across the state, while also helping fill critical staffing shortages in Maine schools. These participants work full-time as educational technicians, long-term substitutes or emergency/conditionally certified teachers within the program, while taking classes toward their degree.
Student teachers in the residency program are paid employees of the school district, who additionally receive a $3,500 tuition reimbursement or stipend per year under the program.
“I’ve been through a lot of those cycles of like, refiguring out what I want to do,” Bolduc said. “And I am really confident that teaching is the thing that I want to do . . . I was a little bit skeptical, but actually having a job where I work with middle schoolers, and I get to actively see some of them transform and learn . . . this is really rewarding.”
In its first year, the federally funded program has 40 participants across more than 20 school districts, including Lewiston schools, Turner-based Maine School Administrative District 52 and Rumford-based Regional School Unit 10. Next year, the program will add 70 more slots.
Each participant is matched with a mentor, who also receives a stipend for their efforts.
“It’s been a completely different school year for me, having a student teacher in the room,” Dylan LeConte, Bolduc’s mentor, said. “That’s the best — like, the best — difference because I think having a guaranteed extra hand of somebody who really wants to get their hands dirty . . . I couldn’t ask for more. It’s really the most support I’ve ever had in a classroom.”
LeConte graduated from the same masters program that Bolduc is enrolled in. Just over six years ago, LeConte recalls student teaching for a full year as part of the certification program without any financial assistance.
That student teachers in the new residency program can receive a tuition reimbursement or stipend on top of their salary from the school is a major benefit, he said. The one-on-one mentorship program also allows student teachers to develop critical skills that emergency certification teachers with little experience may lack, like behavioral management.
According to a prepared statement from USM, the program’s goal is to “address Maine’s teacher shortage in the short term by filling needed positions with student teachers and supporting not-yet-certified teachers. It hopes to address the shortage in the long term by providing aspiring teachers with the support and training they need to be successful educators.”
Bolduc said LeConte has helped him become a better teacher by learning from his experience. Most days, LeConte teaches an English lesson in block two, then swaps with Bolduc in block four to let him supply the same lesson a go.
“Having that support system there is huge,” he said. “If I were just by myself and trying to figure out how to teach and just winging it, I probably would burn out after two or three years.”
Most participants in the residency program are education students at University of Maine-affiliated schools, however the program is open to all undergraduate and graduate education students in Maine.
When Bolduc was considering going back to school for teaching, he was leery of taking on more debt. In addition to his full-time job at the middle school, he also works shifts as a emergency dispatcher to make ends meet. Even so, he ultimately chose to pursue a graduate degree in teaching.
“I felt like I would be in a position where taking on that burden would be worth it, you know?” he said. “But knowing that some of that is going to be alleviated is huge.”
The worlds of digital business and dispute resolution seem to collide with increasing frequency these days. Regulatory wrangles over Big Tech’s business practices and the widening reach of EU directives on digital markets and digital services are pushing law firms of all sizes to build digital departments in Europe.
Benoît Barré is a partner and head of the digital department at Le 16 Law, a Paris boutique spinoff from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer that specializes in dispute resolution. A former top member of Apple’s in-house legal team for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Barré spoke recently with Law.com International about the growing need for digital disputes work and the pros and cons of in-house and private practice.
VALLEJO – Lt. Steve Darden is one of the Vallejo Police Department’s longest serving and most decorated officers, having served on the force longer than any other officer but one. Earlier this year, he was picked to lead one of the department’s new geographical service areas and commands the patrol division in North Vallejo. In his 26 years in the department, he has been promoted three times and earned several good conduct medals.
“He has more stuff in the commendations folder than anyone else. Period,” then-Capt. Lee Horton wrote in an email praising Darden’s performance as a sergeant in 2014. Since then, Darden has received medals of valor and merit and was promoted to lieutenant in 2019.
But Darden’s power and prestige comes despite a reputation for instability and overly aggressive behavior, both inside and outside the department, according to records reviewed by the Vallejo Sun. Darden has faced a string of excessive force complaints as well as internal complaints that allege he’s harassed, berated and bullied colleagues and subordinates and once wrote rap lyrics attacking a city council member.
The records, including an internal investigation and emails between superiors in the department obtained by the Vallejo Sun, show that department leadership disregarded or dismissed complaints about Darden’s behavior, indicative of a department where little has been done to hold officers accountable, even as they’ve shot 56 people over the last 20 years, killing 30. Many of those officers — dubbed the “Fatal 14” by local activists — would kill several people and engage in a secret ritual of bending the tips of their star-shaped badges to consecrate the shootings.
One previously undisclosed complaint from 2017 spurred outside investigators to interview a dozen Vallejo police employees, most of whom reported having some negative interaction with Darden and being aware of his reputation for belligerence. Yelling at subordinates “is Darden's MO and everyone in the department knows it,” one officer told investigators.
Some officers said that they avoided Darden and believed he drove other officers out of the department. A dispatcher said she would leave if Darden received another promotion. A lieutenant alleged that Darden fabricated seeing a suspect during a burglary call, leading to an hours-long standoff with a person that didn’t exist.
But Horton — who retired last year — allegedly covered for Darden’s poor behavior and protected him, according to some Vallejo police employees.
On the streets, Darden has a reputation for brutality and as an officer to avoid. He has fired his gun a documented four times during his career with Vallejo police — a large number for any officer, as a 2016 Pew Research Center survey found that only 27% of police officers nationwide have ever fired their gun in the line of duty.
Darden has been named in several civil rights lawsuits, including one that recently led to a substantial settlement alleging that he and other officers illegally entered a man’s bedroom and beat him for no reason. He was also caught on camera striking a victim of a robbery.
Darden’s notoriety has even led to his inclusion in rap lyrics, as Nef the Pharaoh rapped in his 2019 song “South Vallejo,” “VPD keep fuckin' with me, if Darden come, we dartin', son.”
Darden and the Vallejo Police Department did not respond to multiple requests for an interview or comment for this report.
Darden served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1987-1991, according to his department biography. He started his policing career with the California State University San Francisco Police Department in 1991 but left after only a year, according to state records. He joined the East Palo Alto Police Department in 1994 and then the Vallejo Police Department in 1996.
In 2007, Darden released his first album as a rapper, “It’s Ruff Out Here,” with songs describing his life as a Vallejo police officer, such as one named for Solano County’s area code, ”707.”
“I’m at my locker getting suited up; talkin’ to my squad just choppin it up,” Darden rapped. “Deep inside I start to feel; as if it’s my last day, man, the danger’s real.”
“Load the shotgun and test the light bar; I patrol on the street all day where you are,” Darden continues.
A feature about the album in the Vallejo Times-Herald reported that Darden would play his music while transporting arrestees, who he said would sometimes shed a tear. “I’m not claiming I’m a saint. I’m a human being,” Darden told the paper. “I try and lead a good life, but it doesn’t mean I walk around and judge other people.”
But Darden’s raps were not always positive. During Vallejo’s bankruptcy proceedings in 2008 and 2009, Darden released songs attacking the city’s political leaders, who were seeking to reign in spending on Vallejo Police Officer Association contracts, which led to the city’s historic bankruptcy.
“I’m feeling sick and tired of all the trash you’re talking,” Darden rapped in a song about the bankruptcy proceedings posted on his MySpace account. “When the truth comes out, we’re gonna send you walking.”
Former Vallejo Vice Mayor Stephanie Gomes, who advocated against raises for police and firefighters during the bankruptcy, said that Darden used his lyrics to personally attack her. She said it was part of a pattern of intimidation, which included officers responding to a burglar alarm going off at her house and lingering inside for 45 minutes.
Gomes said one song that was later taken down personally attacked her and her husband, Tony Pearsall, a fellow city councilmember and former police captain.
“Darden took it to another level by going extremely personally after me in that rap song,” Gomes recently told the Sun. She complained to then-Police Chief Robert Nichelini, who told her that it was “potentially protected speech.”
“We need to first ask the employee to voluntarily remove any potential offense material,” Nichelini wrote in a 2009 email. “To that end we have met with Corporal Darden and he agreed to remove the ‘rap lyrics’ and any other similar postings.”
In 2012, Darden released a song about slain Vallejo Officer Jim Capoot, who was shot and killed while chasing a robbery suspect in 2011. The song’s proceeds were donated to a trust for the Capoot family. The department promoted the song and it received local media attention.
“Country Club Crest, Vallejo PD found love in the streets that are known for hate,” Darden rapped, referencing the neighborhood where Capoot was killed, where rapper Mac Dre grew up, and Darden now leads its patrol division.
In his time with Vallejo police, Darden has been involved with four shootings, three of them fatal.
The first happened on Aug. 8, 2005, when Darden and Horton, who was a sergeant at the time, reportedly returned fire after Horton confronted a man acting erratically near a Denny’s restaurant on Fairgrounds Drive. An autopsy found that the suspect, Steven Wilson, shot and killed himself.
Darden’s second shooting was on Feb. 11, 2011, when he was one of eight Vallejo police officers and two Napa County Sheriff’s deputies who killed Sherman Peacock after Peacock allegedly pointed a gun at them. Records show that one of the officers in that shooting later sent his badge for repairs to straighten the point, potentially indicating that it was bent to mark the shooting.
Darden became a source of controversy for the department when video of a 2011 incident was leaked to ABC7 news. The video showed Darden hit robbery victim Blake Robles after he complained about how long it took for Vallejo police to arrive.
“I’m not on your time watch,” Darden said.
Robles responded, “You guys take for-fucking-ever.” Darden stepped forward, standing inches from Robles.
“U.S. soldier bro, know who you’re talking to,” Robles said. Darden hit him, knocking him to the ground.
“I know who I’m talking to. You’re down. You understand that?” Darden said as he held Robles on the ground. “You’re talking to a United States Marine.”
In the ABC7 report, Horton — then head of the Vallejo police professional standards division — declined to say whether Darden’s behavior was inappropriate and denied that supervisors had played the video during a briefing and laughed about it.
Months after the video was made public in February 2013, Darden was promoted to sergeant.
Darden’s third and fourth shootings happened just before he would receive a medal of valor in May 2014.
On June 8, 2013, then-Officer Darden shot and killed 57-year-old Mohammad Naas after Naas had allegedly killed his wife and then confronted Darden with a gun. On April 9, 2014, Darden and Officer Joseph McCarthy shot and killed 29-year-old Ever Ramon Martinez after they ended a vehicle pursuit by pinning Martinez’s car between two patrol cars.
Darden was the subject of a complaint from a dispatcher in early 2014, according to emails obtained by the Sun. Then-Lt. Kevin Barlett wrote in a Feb. 23, 2014, email to Lt. Sid DeJesus and Horton, who had been promoted to captain by then, that he had spoken to a dispatcher who said she wanted to quit because of the way that Darden had been treating her.
“She said whenever he talks to her he is condescending and she gets the feeling that he does not like her and wants her to quit,” Bartlett wrote.
Bartlett went on to say that he believed there was credence to her claim. “I personally supervised Sgt. Darden for 2 years on Squad 5 and during that time he was a very good, hard working officer and accepted constructive criticism reasonably well, although he had his moments relating to anger as you both know,” Bartlett wrote.
Bartlett said he had recently spoken to Darden about a different issue and Darden had become unreasonably angry. Bartlett suggested that Darden “may need some guidance or professional help with his personality flaws or anger, as it appears to be effecting [sic] others more than the acceptable standards.”
DeJesus and Horton, however, dismissed the suggestion. “I consider Steve to be one of our stronger sergeants and that is because of the leadership role he has taken,” DeJesus wrote. “He has been nothing short of spectacular with regard to his recruitment efforts, and the tone he has set is one which was very much needed.”
“You might want to be careful hanging that anger management jacket on Steve, when in my opinion, he has been performing exceedingly well,” Horton said. “You are actually a little out there on that Kevin. I don’t believe Steve needs an anger management intervention. He is doing just fine.”
The exchange was forwarded to Darden’s supervisor, then-Lt. Kenny Park, who also disregarded the complaint. “Steve is very conscientious about getting along with everyone and he very much thinks of the welfare of all our organization’s employees,” Park wrote. “I will have to respectfully disagree with you on your assessment that Steve has anger management issues.”
But a complaint three years later from McCarthy — the second officer involved in Darden’s 2014 fatal shooting — led to numerous officers accusing Darden of unchecked anger, bullying subordinates, and even dishonesty. Some employees said that they wanted to quit the force because of Darden or that others left because of his behavior. Some said that they believed Horton covered for Darden.
Davis-based consulting firm DR Associates was hired to conduct the investigation into McCarthy’s harassment complaint. A May 28, 2018, report signed by DR Associates investigator David Reuben that was obtained by the Sun did not sustain the allegation that Darden had harassed McCarthy. However, Reuben concluded, “It is clear that Sergeant Darden’s administrative methods when dealing with subordinates must be questioned. The multiple comments of personnel suggest this aggressive approach has not been well received and has affected staff morale.”
McCarthy alleged that he had difficulties with Darden dating back to 2016, when Darden had been “aggressive and angry” with him about a recruit McCarthy was training. McCarthy alleged that Darden yelled at him in front of a trainee. McCarthy described three other incidents when Darden had yelled at him or treated him unprofessionally, culminating in an incident on Dec. 28, 2017, which led to McCarthy’s complaint.
According to the report, Darden had left on a call and asked McCarthy to fill in on a briefing. When Darden returned and found the briefing had run long, McCarthy alleged that Darden ordered everyone out and then berated him and was “loud, threatening and unprofessional.” McCarthy alleged that Horton covered for Darden’s behavior because they were friends.
When Darden was interviewed by investigators, he said that he had spoken to McCarthy “sternly” but in a conversational tone. He said that since the incident McCarthy had shown “subtle disrespect” and said in an email to Sgt. Drew Ramsay two days later that McCarthy had a “disgruntled” and “poor salty attitude.”
McCarthy brought his complaint to Lt. Herman Robinson, who was also interviewed for the investigation. Robinson told investigators that four years prior, he went on a burglary call with Darden where Darden claimed that he saw a second suspect in a residence and called for a SWAT team, leading to a three-hour standoff where no suspect was found. “In Robinson’s opinion Darden made up the second suspect,” the report states. Robinson said that he reported the incident to Horton, who told him, “Darden has a strong personality.” Robinson said that numerous officers could not work with Darden.
Other officers made similar complaints.
Officer Jesse Hicks said that Darden tends to “berate” personnel, and he avoids him. Officer Gary Jones said Darden likes to “speak loudly, not allow you to be heard, and lecture without discussion” and he did not work overtime when Darden was on duty.
Officer Amanda Blain said that Darden “bullies” people and likes to yell. Officer Stephanie McDonough said that Darden has a “control issue” and picks a “flavor of the month” he targets for criticism. Officer Bryan Glick said that Darden “targets” people, and he also avoided overtime shifts with Darden. Officer John Ehman said that he once got into a "screaming argument" with Darden and knows he can be "out of control."
A dispatcher said she submitted a complaint about Darden in 2018 for harassment after he came into the dispatch area yelling. She said he was told to avoid coming into dispatch after that. A dispatch supervisor said that she had difficulties with Darden and that she was fearful of him because “he goes haywire” with little provocation. But she believed that Horton protected him from discipline. She said if Darden was promoted to lieutenant, she would get another job.
Despite Darden’s reputation and the complaints against his behavior, he continued to be rewarded and his status in the department and the community rose.
Darden continued sporadically releasing music. In 2017, he released a song, “Let It Go” with guitar from producer James Early, who among other famous musicians produced for MC Hammer, including his hit song “2 Legit 2 Quit.”
“No I don’t gang bang but I wear blue; I rep the thin line protecting you,” Darden raps. “You say don’t need me I don’t believe that; Crime wave hits, you take it all back.”
The song earned him a new feature in the Vallejo Times-Herald.
“No matter what you do and how you do it, you’re going to have people who just don’t like you as a police officer,” Darden told the Times-Herald in 2017. “You shouldn’t paint law enforcement with a broad brush and that’s pretty much what we’re facing.”
On April 27, 2017, Vallejo police awarded Darden with a medal of merit and on April 26, 2018 — while the investigation into McCarthy’s complaint was underway — Darden was given a good conduct medal.
Later that year, Darden was involved in an incident that led to a $120,000 settlement for excessive force. According to the city, it started when Officer Jake Estrada noticed a minivan that had crashed into the garage door of a home and was left running and in reverse.
Officers Travis Aspegren, Yanett Hernandez and then-Sgt. Darden arrived and entered the home to search it. Estrada found what he believed to be a dead body in a bedroom, and the officers stormed another bedroom belonging to Rodolfo Lopez and punched and hit him with batons.
Following Lopez’s arrest, the officers discovered that the person was not dead.
Lopez sued the city in 2020, alleging that he suffered a concussion, a mild traumatic brain injury, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Lopez settled his lawsuit earlier this year.
Darden was promoted to lieutenant in 2020, but subordinates have continued to complain about his behavior. The handling of one such complaint was part of what led to the termination of Deputy Police Chief Michael Kihmm.
That issue started with a complaint that Officer Jordan Patzer sent to then-Capt. Jason Potts on Sept. 10 saying his patrol squad had “ongoing issues” with their superiors, Sgt. Jodi Brown and Darden. The complaint mentioned “retaliation,” “harassment” and “hostile work environment,” according to a letter from then-Police Chief Shawny Williams.
Williams wrote that Potts had a series of “ill-conceived” meetings with the members of the patrol squad, Brown and Darden without consulting the city’s human resources department first. Darden then had a meeting with Brown and Patzer, which resulted in Brown and Patzer calling each other liars, according to Williams.
Kihmm wrote in a response letter that when Darden contacted Brown and the patrol squad about the allegations, it caused “further frustrations amongst the officers on the team.” Potts did not advise or encourage Darden to do that, according to Kihmm.
Neither the city nor Darden responded to questions about why Darden did not allow his superiors to handle the matter or whether he was disciplined.
Darden has taken a key leadership role as the department has reorganized in response to a series of high-profile incidents of deadly force and revelations that some officers bent the tips of their star-shaped badges after on-duty shootings.
In March, Vallejo announced that it would assign lieutenants to command four local geographic areas in an initiative meant to encourage “relational policing” by cultivating strong relationships to “understand the unique needs of the neighborhoods they represent.”
“The foundation of change begins with relationships,” Williams, who resigned earlier this month, said in a statement. “In 2022, we are restoring our commitment to building strong relationships and creating healthy communities through relation-based policing.”
Darden was placed in charge of North Vallejo, which includes the Country Club Crest neighborhood, which Darden once rapped was “known for hate.”
For Gomes — the former vice mayor who Darden once rapped about — Darden’s latest promotion to lieutenant in charge of a specific geographical area puts the wrong person in a leadership role in the department.
"Darden himself, his behavior, professionally, as a police officer has been called into question many times and rightfully so,” Gomes said. “He's a bully when he has his uniform on. He's a bully when he has it off. He's a terrible representative of the city of Vallejo and should have been gone a long time ago.”
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The California market squid purse-seine fishery, one of the largest commercial squid fisheries by tonnage in the United States, has started the Marine Stewardship Council assessment process.
A completion of an initial draft of the MSC assessment report found the fishery preliminarily qualified for certification. Three seafood companies; Del Mar Seafoods, Silver Bay Seafoods, and Lund’s Fisheries, as well as supplier Sun Coast Calamari, collaborated to push the assessment process, which is being conducted by with the independent certification body SCS Global Services.
“The three members of this client group represent the majority of production and processing capacity within the industry, which is why this collaboration will have a positive effect on the entire fishery,” Del Mar Seafoods President and Founder Joe Cappuccio said. “Sustainability has always been a key consideration in our business models, so obtaining MSC certification was a logical step for our companies to take to ensure we can continue to produce high-quality, sustainable products for the world.”
California market squid are caught from Mexico's Baja Peninsula up to southeastern Alaska, and are used by recreational fishers as bait, and commercially in calamari products. Managed by NOAA Fisheries, the Pacific Fishery Management Council, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the fishery is comprised of 76 licensed vessels. According to NOAA, in 2021 those vessels accounted for about 107.3 million pounds (48,700 metric tons) in commercial landings, which was valued at about USD 64 million (EUR 62.5 million).
“Silver Bay Seafoods participates in many MSC-certified fisheries in Alaska,” Silver Bay Seafoods President and CEO Cora Campbell said. “Expanding our relationship to encompass the California market squid fishery is a natural next step to offering our customers across the globe access to a full suite of certified products.”
The draft report found the fishery's average scores across the three main MSC principles high enough to qualify it for certification. “Documented adaptable management strategies, monitoring, and enforcement” and “very little bycatch” were several strengths of the fishery that SCS mentioned in the draft. A public comment period is now open on the draft report.
“Lund’s Fisheries is proud to come together with two other well-respected California squid producers, and work with SCS and MSC again, this time to demonstrate and support the long-term viability of the California market squid fishery,” Lund’s Fisheries President Wayne Reichle said. “We have been a leader in sustainable seafood for three generations thanks to our fishermen, plant employees, and customers. Certifying the California market squid fishery will distinguish us as the only U.S. seafood producer offering all three MSC-certified domestic squid species here and overseas.”
If successful, certification of the California market squid fishery can be expected in the fall of 2023, after a consultation period and successful site visit and audit.
Photo courtesy of David A Litman/Shutterstock
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In this digital age, farming, especially in developing countries like Vietnam, has maintained a general perception of being an analog, hands-on practice.
Farmers are unfairly viewed as simple folk who toil away under the blazing sun with rudimentary tools to ensure that we have food on our plates without even needing to think about where it comes from. But contrary to popular belief, farmers need data and digital tools just as badly as ride-share drivers tasked with picking you up from a far-flung hẻm.
Tracking fertilizer use and rainfall or identifying potentially dangerous pests are just some of the areas in which digital solutions can help farmers, their customers, and the environment. This is where agtech (agricultural technology) can come in to help. But while this market is valued at about US$20 billion globally, it is in the very early stages in Vietnam.
According to a 2021 report from the British Chamber of Commerce Vietnam, the country had just 46 agtech companies, even though nearly 30 million people work in the agri-food industry. By following non-digital methods, many farmers overuse pesticides, adding to their production costs while also damaging the land and hurting the quality of their crops. The nation’s agricultural supply chain also lacks transparency, something that could be addressed digitally.
There are some domestic pioneers in the field, including Demeter, MimosaTek, and Naturally Vietnam, while Viettel has backed an agtech platform called NextFarm that has over 1,000 users in Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, and Singapore. But the country has few platforms from which agtech practices and applications can be launched. Enter AgTech Vietnam. Created by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) under the World Bank Group, it aims to bring agtech solutions to smallholder farmers in Vietnam.
Vietnam’s agricultural sector is dominated by smallholder farmers, with the General Statistics Office estimating in 2020 that there are about 10 million such farmers in the country. A smallholder has a small parcel of land, sometimes smaller than 0.5 hectares, and operates on a small scale.
"When I came to Vietnam four years ago, we had this issue with multiple clients who were saying that they wanted to deploy digital solutions to smallholders in their supply chains, but it wasn’t working," said Marta Bogdanic, Senior Operations Officer at IFC. "Farmers would provide information for a little while, but then it would stop, as farmers haven’t observed any direct benefit."
Bogdanic and her team had clients working in the rice, pepper, and coffee industries, so they started looking at these sectors, particularly in the Mekong Delta and the Central Highlands, and realized which part of the food production chain needed to be addressed: the farmers. “We went out and conducted a diagnostic study, basically just asking farmers what they needed,” she said. “Because why would somebody use something if it doesn’t have any value for them?”
"Clients had been trying a top-down approach of telling farmers that if they shared enough information after implementing desired production practices, they could, for example, be certified and then receive premium payments for their crop. “But these premium payments were often all over the place, depending on the company, depending on the relationship with farmers,” Bogdanic said. “Some farmers would get less in payments, others would get more, and it wasn’t very organized.”
While engaging directly with farmers to assess their needs, AgTech Vietnam also brought three agtech companies on board for a three-month pilot acceleration program in which the tech firms would show Vietnamese farmers what their products could do. ListenField, SpiceUp, and Plantix provide mobile-based farm management and advisory services aimed at, among other goals, improving yield quality and quickly detecting crop pests or diseases.
“We listened to feedback from farmers on what they wanted, and we worked with agri tech startups and a tech developer to develop farming advisory applications to help the farmers,” Bogdanic explained. “Basically, they get notifications that are location-, weather-, and crop cycle-specific to what they need to do. Coffee and pepper are perennial crops, so you know when the flowering starts, and you can evaluate the next steps at the right time. You draw data from an IBM weather service and look at things that are happening in the field, and this enables the provision of these notifications to farmers.”
Of course, convincing people to use a new app and change their process isn’t always easy. Especially when it comes to changing business practices, people need to know that something new will create additional value for them.
Rice farmers, who tend to be older than the pepper and coffee farmers that Bogdanic worked with, were particularly resistant to the introduction of digital apps. But the sector, worth US$3 billion in exports, is hugely important financially and thus, despite the challenges, deserving of attention. The information that farmers can upload, such as the amount of water or fertilizer they were using, has to be linked to a greater network. Being able to share data related to their crops with the companies they sell to allows for easier certification audits for organic status and other systems.
Another major challenge is the structure of Vietnam’s rice market, an even bigger problem than the reluctance among rice farmers to go digital. “The rice supply chain is very fragmented, and there are too many people involved,” Bogdanic said. ““There is a middleman at every step, so a farmer doesn’t sell directly to the end buyer; they sell to somebody who collects and then sells that in bulk to a person with a barge, and then someone aggregates a few barges, and so on.””
As a result, it’s difficult for the end buyer — whether a company or an individual — to know exactly where their rice came from and how it was grown. This lack of verifiable information can have significant impacts on domestic and foreign markets.
Moreover, of the three crops, rice presents by far the greatest potential for improved environmental outcomes, particularly because of how it is cultivated. Though methane doesn’t remain in the atmosphere as long as carbon dioxide, it is a much more potent greenhouse gas, and one created by the most basic way of growing rice: in flooded fields. “Rice emits the most methane of any sub-sector in agriculture, and it’s responsible for about 40% of greenhouse gas emissions in this industry in Vietnam,” Bogdanic explained.
“The Vietnamese government took on this obligation to be net-zero by 2050, and they want to reduce methane emissions by 30% by 2030,” Bogdanic said. “It would be a very nice story if one outcome of this application is for farmers to change their practices based on data to alternate wetting and drying instead of using flooded fields.”
As of now, about 1,800 farmers are using the IFC-backed application, mostly in the coffee and pepper sub-sectors. Millions of people work as farmers in Vietnam, meaning this is a very small start, but Bogdanic believes there is great potential for her work and agtech in general when it comes to farmers and the land they use.
“I am a firm believer in farmers getting paid for the quality of the products that they deliver, rather than just emissions reduction,” she said. “But this is all tied up together if you want people to produce in a more sustainable manner.”
Bay Staters will soon be able to go online to confirm the certification status for most of the state’s thousands of police officers.
Members of the Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission approved a motion Tuesday to publish a list “containing the name, employing agency, and certification status of all law enforcement officers who have been granted initial certification since December 15, 2021 or granted full recertification.”
A POST Commission spokesperson said last week the database will become public “no earlier than next week.” The portal will only list information for officers who are certified, the spokesperson said.
The reform law that created the panel required it to move toward a publicly available, searchable database with law enforcement officer records, so long as the panel took into consideration officer health and safety.
Commissioner Larry Calderone, who is president of the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association, cast the lone dissenting vote.
The vast majority of police whose last names begin with the letters A through H secured recertification under the first round of that process outlined in the law. Of the 8,846 total officers in the pool, 8,322 were again certified and another 269 were conditionally certified, according to data POST Commission Executive Director Enrique Zuniga presented at a Tuesday meeting.
While it still represents less than 3% of the total pool of applicants, the count of police officers who were not recertified by the panel swelled substantially from 57 last month to 243 as of Nov. 16, driven in large part by the inclusion of officers out on leave in the tally.
Twenty-six officers were not recertified for what Zuniga called a “pending matter including a disciplinary matter.”
“This includes instances where there is not an attestation by the chief and the Division of Certification is affirming that determination of not a good moral character,” Zuniga said, referring to a requirement in the certification process for a law enforcement agency head to attest to an officer’s character.
Most denials were for reasons unrelated to on-the-job performance. More than half, or 133 officers, did not earn recertification because they are currently out on administrative, medical, military or family leave. They will each get 90 days to comply with recertification requirements once they return to active duty.
“Please note that this is not a pejorative status and that the officer remains in good standing but is ‘pending’ or ‘on hold’ until their return,” POST Senior Certification Specialist Gina Joyce wrote in an Oct. 31 memo included in Tuesday’s meeting materials.
Another 21 officers retired or resigned after submitting their applications, which were due on July 1. Sixty-three applicants failed the Bridge Academy, a handful of whom chose to go on to a full police academy and can eventually earn certification once they finish their training, according to Zuniga.
Some of those officers denied recertification may opt to appeal the decision by seeking review of their case from Zuniga or from the larger POST Commission.
Certification for a dozen officers is tied up amid potential review hearings before either Zuniga or the full commission. The panel entered closed executive session following Tuesday’s open meeting to consider six requests for preliminary inquiries and nine cases of recommended certification suspension.
The law that created the POST Commission set up a rolling three-year cycle for recertification of all Massachusetts police. Officers with last names starting with the letters A through H needed to apply for recertification this year, and others will be due in future years.
In addition to getting a clear look at which police officers are certified, the public can also begin to file complaints against law enforcement via a new web portal POST launched in latest days.
The police misconduct complaint form now available will expedite the process of bringing potential issues before the panel for review.
“This form will enable us to capture structured data in a much more efficient way and generate better reporting,” Zuniga said.
Civilians who fill out the questionnaire can do so anonymously, though the commission encourages them to identify themselves to allow the oversight panel to conduct follow-up inquiries and gather more information.
In its earlier days, the commission had been fielding public concerns via phone calls or emails sent to a general inbox. The panel has received about 1,650 complaints since its inception, and Zuniga said about 350 of those — nearly one-quarter — came from “a very small group that’s about a dozen individuals.”
“We of course anticipate the new form will result in more complaints coming to us, but our approach is to treat all complaints seriously and interact with the public in a professional manner,” Zuniga said. “Some of the repeat complainers, sometimes it eventually becomes clear that some of these complaints are not credible for a variety of reasons. We are documenting and making sure we have consistent protocols for those responses. In many cases, it means contacting the law enforcement agency, and in some cases, it may include referring the individual to additional resources.”