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On Our Watch

Author: KQED

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When correctional officer Valentino Rodriguez first stepped behind prison walls, he wasn't just starting a job, he was joining a family. What he didn’t know was that he was now bound by an unwritten code that would ultimately test his loyalty to his oath and his fellow officers. Five years later, Valentino's sudden death would raise questions from the FBI, his family and his mentor in the elite investigative unit where they both worked. This season, join us as we follow in Valentino’s footsteps to uncover the secrets hidden inside the most dangerous prison in California: New Folsom.

If you have tips or feedback about this series please reach out to us at onourwatch@kqed.org.  

18 Episodes
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What happens to police officers who use excessive force, tamper with evidence or sexually harass someone? In California, internal affairs investigations were kept secret from the public — until a recent transparency law unsealed thousands of files. On Our Watch is a limited-run podcast from NPR and KQED that brings you into the rooms where officers are interrogated and witnesses are questioned to find out who the system of police accountability really serves, and who it protects. New episodes drop weekly, starting Thursday, May 20. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
In Good Faith

In Good Faith

2021-05-2049:011

In the small Northern California town of Rio Vista, a woman named Katheryn Jenks calls 911 for help. But after the police arrive, she ends up injured and inside a jail cell, facing serious charges. That same day, California Governor Jerry Brown signs a new law, State Senate Bill 1421, that opens up long hidden records of police misconduct, including files that might change the outcome of Jenks' case. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Conduct Unbecoming

Conduct Unbecoming

2021-05-2748:142

One officer in Los Angeles used car inspections to hit on women. In the San Francisco Bay Area, another woman says an officer used police resources to harass and stalk her. The California Highway Patrol quietly fired both of them for sexual harassment, but never looked into whether their misconduct was criminal. The second episode of On Our Watch examines the system of accountability for officers who abuse their power for sex and exposes where that system falls short. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
20-20 Hindsight

20-20 Hindsight

2021-06-0354:12

After his son is shot and killed by a Richmond, Calif. police officer, a father looking for answers becomes a police transparency advocate. When the files about his son's death are released, they show an accountability system that seems to hang on one question: did the officer fear for their life? And in a rare interview, we hear from the officer who pulled the trigger. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Perceived Threat

Perceived Threat

2021-06-1049:16

A 16-year-old Black kid walks into a gas station in Stockton, Calif. to buy gummy worms for his little sister. When the teen gets in an argument with the clerk over a damaged dollar bill, a white officer in plainclothes decides to intervene — with force. In the fourth episode of On Our Watch, we trace the ripple effects of this incident over the next 10 years in a department trying to address racism and bias. But can the chief's efforts at truth and reconciliation work when the accountability process seems to ignore the truth? Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Neglect of Duty

Neglect of Duty

2021-06-1752:221

An officer is repeatedly disciplined for not turning in his police reports on time. A mom goes to the police asking for help with her missing daughters. In the fifth episode of On Our Watch, we look at what can happen when police don't follow through on reports of victimization, and an accountability process that doesn't want to examine those failures. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
The Brady Rule

The Brady Rule

2021-06-2440:38

Fellow officers long suspected a veteran detective in Antioch, Calif., was leaking operational police secrets to a drug dealer. For years, the department didn't act on their concerns. Even after the detective was finally fired in 2017, his record remained secret. In episode six of On Our Watch we look at the incentives departments have to investigate dishonest cops and what the secrecy around police misconduct means for criminal defendants who are prosecuted on their testimony. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Under Color of Law

Under Color of Law

2021-07-0801:06:56

One of the first police shootings to be captured on cell phone, millions saw Bay Area Rapid Transit police Officer Johannes Mehserle fire a single, fatal gunshot into Oscar Grant's back as the 22-year-old lay face down on the train station platform. Now, a lawsuit filed by NPR member station KQED has forced BART to comply with California's 2019 police transparency law, and release never-before-heard tapes from inside that investigation. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Less than six weeks after On Our Watch published an episode examining the shooting and death of Oscar Grant, California's Attorney General Rob Bonta opened an external investigation into the 12-year-old case. In a wide-ranging interview with On Our Watch's Sukey Lewis, Bonta talks about California's systemic issues in policing, his efforts at addressing them and says the Oscar Grant case remains unresolved. We also look at new police reforms promising that cops who commit serious misconduct can be stripped of their badges. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
We’re back with a second season of On Our Watch from KQED! “New Folsom” traces the footsteps of two whistleblowers in an elite investigative unit in California’s most dangerous prison. Host Sukey Lewis and co-reporter Julie Small piece together a gripping narrative about broken promises and unwritten rules. It’s a story about who gets hurt when the system that promises to keep us safe is bent on protecting itself. New episodes drop weekly, starting February 6.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Soon after correctional officer Valentino Rodriguez starts working at New Folsom prison, he gets caught up in a bad incident. An incarcerated man ends up in the hospital with horrific injuries, and the prison starts an investigation. Valentino feels pressured to back up his fellow officers' version of the story, even though he thinks it might not be the truth. Then he gets an opportunity he's dreamed of-- to join an elite unit investigating crimes in the prison. Resources If you are currently in crisis, you can dial 988 [U.S.] to reach the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. SAMHSA National Help Line 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Helpline US Health and Human Services Warmline Directory Episode Transcript Find more information at our website. If you have tips or feedback about this series please reach out to us at onourwatch@kqed.org. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Consumed with stress and fed up with how he’s being treated, Valentino Rodriguez reaches a breaking point at work. A veteran officer and mentor to Valentino starts looking into the murder that happened in the dayroom. Valentino and Mimy get married, then Valentino goes in for a final meeting with the warden of New Folsom.  Resources If you are currently in crisis, you can dial 988 [U.S.] to reach the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. SAMHSA National Help Line 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Helpline US Health and Human Services Warmline Directory Episode Transcript Find more information at our website. If you have tips or feedback about this series please reach out to us at onourwatch@kqed.org. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Valentino’s unexpected death just days after a confidential meeting with the prison’s warden leaves his grieving father with a tangle of questions and suspicions. When law enforcement and prison leadership fail to act, Val Sr. finds an ally in Sgt. Kevin Steele, a senior officer who’d taken Valentino under his wing. The two men have a shared mission–to find justice for Valentino.  Resources If you are currently in crisis, you can dial 988 [U.S.] to reach the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. SAMHSA National Help Line 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Helpline US Health and Human Services Warmline Directory Episode Transcript Find more information at our website. If you have tips or feedback about this series please reach out to us at onourwatch@kqed.org.   Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
How did Sgt. Kevin Steele go from being a true believer in the institution of New Folsom to writing an explosive memo hoping to tear it down? We sift through video evidence, interrogation tapes and internal reports to find glimpses of his transformation. But when he feels his reports of corruption are ignored—he takes an even more drastic step. Resources If you are currently in crisis, you can dial 988 [U.S.] to reach the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. SAMHSA National Help Line 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Helpline US Health and Human Services Warmline Directory Episode Transcript Find more information at our website. If you have tips or feedback about this series please reach out to us at onourwatch@kqed.org.   Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Valentino Rodriguez Sr. is on the treadmill one morning when he gets a call—Sgt. Kevin Steele is dead. Val Sr. has lost not only his friend, but his partner in their shared quest to find the truth. A meeting with the FBI provides few answers, even as new questions arise about why a second whistleblower from New Folsom has lost his life. Resources If you are currently in crisis, you can dial 988 [U.S.] to reach the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. SAMHSA National Help Line 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Helpline US Health and Human Services Warmline Directory Episode Transcript Find more information at our website. If you have tips or feedback about this series please reach out to us at onourwatch@kqed.org.   Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
The team digs deep into the homicide of Luis Giovanny Aguilar—the murder in the day room that Officer Valentino Rodriguez was tasked to write a report about, and that had consumed Sgt. Kevin Steele up until the last day of his life. We track down each of the men who took part in the stabbing to find out: did officers also play a role? Resources If you are currently in crisis, you can dial 988 [U.S.] to reach the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. SAMHSA National Help Line 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Helpline US Health and Human Services Warmline Directory Episode Transcript Find more information at our website. If you have tips or feedback about this series please reach out to us at onourwatch@kqed.org.   Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
We get to listen in on confidential interviews conducted by Sgt. Kevin Steele before his death. Plus, we finally get to see surveillance footage from inside the B8 unit that sheds new light on the murder of Luis Giovanny Aguilar. Editor’s note: After this episode first aired on April 2, 2024, CDCR finally located Valentino Rodriguez’s supplemental report about the murder of Luis Giovanny Aguilar that we reference in this episode. Their public records team was initially unable to find it. However, the agency said the report was exempt from disclosure. Resources If you are currently in crisis, you can dial 988 [U.S.] to reach the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. SAMHSA National Help Line 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Helpline US Health and Human Services Warmline Directory Episode Transcript Find more information at our website. If you have tips or feedback about this series please reach out to us at onourwatch@kqed.org.   Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
After his son’s death, Valentino Rodriguez Sr. waited for the warden of New Folsom prison to call him. That call never came. In our season finale, we walk through the gates of New Folsom to ask the warden for answers. We also get a rare glimpse inside the world of correctional officer discipline and hear from Sgt. Kevin Steele in his own words.  Mental health resources If you are currently in crisis, you can dial 988 [U.S.] to reach the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. SAMHSA National Help Line 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Helpline US Health and Human Services Warmline Directory Whistleblower resources The Lamplighter Project The Signals Network EMPOWR Whistleblowers of America Government Accountability Project National Whistleblower Center Whistleblower Aid Episode Transcript Find more information at our website. If you have tips or feedback about this series please reach out to us at onourwatch@kqed.org.   Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Comments (20)

Anonymous

warden is a swinging dick

Apr 11th
Reply

Bora Jak

Really amazing! https://apkhexo.com/capcut-mod-apk/

Mar 7th
Reply

Al Dee

CW this focuses on a white woman...Why are we focusing on a white woman? I'm a white woman by the way!!! But it's so disappointing that this one minor thing gets the attention when black women are losing their lives or liberty, not to mention black men who are victims even more! Hopefully it's to get sympathy of more white people to these injustices so this is not necessarily a criticism, I'll keep listening for now.

Sep 27th
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David Jacobo

this whole series was just riveting

Mar 22nd
Reply

BC

this is even more depressing than the other one.

Dec 28th
Reply

ekeama goddard

Thanks for the update!

Oct 5th
Reply

Matthew Stephenson

It's really worrying that officers can claim they were in fear for their life in a fight they start. If you know fights can make you feel this worried, don't start them by dragging otherwise peaceful people to the ground! Petey wasn't being violent, and the cop had his name, so where's the issue with him walking off? It doesn't even seem like he's being accused of anything at the time, so although the cop seems to be saying he wouldn't do anything differently, where's the need to detain and control him in the first place?

Jul 21st
Reply

Hannah Church

I could never put my shoes in that of an officers. I'm never saying I could do better- but if you cannot see that we desperately need to do something different with policing...

Jul 8th
Reply (2)

DrRayTay

If the kid was leaving the store when the cop pulled him back in, how is that trespassing? There was absolutely no reason to touch that kid to begin with.

Jul 4th
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DrRayTay

“I don’t believe you at this point” “I’m not saying you’re lying” “This room smells like alcohol” “We take this very seriously” Yet another example of why victims don’t report.

Jul 4th
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Nay E.

This would have never happened to a white kid the cop would’ve paid for the candy. Slave patrols to Lynwood Vikings (La sheriff department gang)

Jun 27th
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Nay E.

Crazy that a cop isn’t suppose to shoot someone running away but they do anyways....

Jun 27th
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Edward Fraker

absolutely insane! I am curious the frequency of these violations. If it were a citizen they would be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. California has some of the very strictest stalking laws in the nation. And these sociopaths are paid to do it!

Jun 15th
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Jon Ferry

I understand why you are asking why cops arnt held accountable, but what about state senators that started molesting young boys when he was still a principal of a small town jr. high school, moved on to protecting and profiting off a TT program for decades, is friends with a former chief of police who is now in jail for raping his 4 year old granddaughter, and is still in fucking office. NPR to scared to expose the truth and protect children? I have tried contacting anyone in the media, I have proof and hundreds of witnesses, but still, no one cares or they are to afraid. Prove me and all survivors wrong, jonstgwd@gmail.com

Jun 15th
Reply (1)

mando8000

If you aren't going to police correctly, don't wear the badge you don't deserve it. you're supposed to make things better not worse enforce the law not your own judgment on people.

Jun 11th
Reply

Russ

This story seriously bothers me. This police officer is so full of it, there is absolutely no way this guy continued charging even once after being shot in the chest let alone 3 times, and if he's going to lie about that then he would definitely lie about him going after the gun. I find the Officer in the interview to be smug that he got away with it. My heart goes out to the Perez family and hopefully one day they will get justice for Petey

Jun 3rd
Reply
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