Berkeley city manager failed to reveal past investigation of police chief pick, officials say

A woman in a police uniform sits at a desk on a computer
Several city officials say Berkeley City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley did not inform them of a past investigation into Jennifer Louis, above, her choice for top cop.
(Berkeley Police Department)

Berkeley’s city manager came under scrutiny Thursday following a report from The Times on allegations of misconduct by the woman she chose to lead the city’s Police Department.

City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley selected interim Chief Jennifer Louis in October to take the job as chief of police. Williams-Ridley, however, didn’t inform the City Council or the city’s Police Accountability Board of allegations of sexual harassment against Louis that were investigated in 2017, according to officials.

City officials and watchdogs said information on the previous investigation into Louis should have been given to those interviewing her for the job as top cop, as well as City Council members who are now set to vote on her confirmation.


The Police Accountability Board, which provides civilian oversight of the department, “was never made aware of any allegations of sexual harassment made by employees of the Berkeley Police Department,” said John Moore, the chair of the Police Accountability Board, by email. Neither the board “nor the previous oversight entity (the Police Review Commission) had ever been made aware of or given access to the city manager’s internal review of the Interim Chief’s conduct.”

An outside law firm in 2017 upheld allegations that Louis made harassing comments to one woman but not claims made by two other women, according to city investigative and disposition records reviewed by The Times. After an appeal by Louis, Williams-Ridley ultimately issued her a “written reprimand” in 2018 that was later removed from her record.

City Councilmembers Kate Harrison and Ben Bartlett spoke with The Times and said they weren’t informed about the investigation.

Harrison confirmed that during the council session “where the appointment was posed to us, it was not disclosed.”

“I am concerned about the city manager not informing us as she proposed the appointment,” Harrison said.

A photo portrait of a smiling woman with curly dark hair and wearing a suit jacket.
Berkeley City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley.
(City of Berkeley)

Other members of the City Council did not respond to requests for comment. The mayor, city manager and city spokesperson also did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Harrison said she was not “prejudging” Louis but believed the council should have been informed of the allegations, which could factor into its decision on whether to confirm Louis as top cop.

Although the written reprimand was removed from Louis’ personnel file in 2020, a city official told The Times the city manager should have informed the council “so they have all relevant information for [the] vote.”


Louis was accused in 2017 by then-Berkeley Police Officer Heather Haney of making inappropriate comments at a SWAT team party. An independent investigator hired by the city sustained Haney’s complaint against Louis, saying she’d violated the city’s harassment policy. But after Louis’ appeal, the city manager downgraded the punishment to a written reprimand that found Louis had engaged in “unprofessional conduct.”

Two other women alleged that Louis made advances and then retaliated against them when she was rejected. Those women’s claims were found during the investigation to be unsubstantiated.

Although then-Police Chief Andrew Greenwood had moved to suspend Louis for five days following the investigation, the city manager subsequently determined that the written reprimand was sufficient, along with a one-on-one training regarding “professional and respectful communication in the workplace.”

Louis has denied all claims made against her. Some current and former members of the Police Department interviewed by The Times voiced their support for Louis, and said she is being unfairly targeted with baseless claims by those who don’t want her to become chief.

Berkeley spent more than a year searching for a new head of the Police Department after Greenwood retired in 2021. Louis and two other candidates were interviewed extensively as part of the process. The 20-month search for a new chief included no mention of the investigation into sexual harassment claims against Louis, according to officials familiar with the process.

Board Chair Moore said members would discuss the allegations raised in The Times’ article at their next public meeting, on Jan. 9.


The board is currently investigating the leak of apparently racist text messages sent by the head of the police union, and will consider at the Jan. 9 meeting whether to include in its investigation the allegations against Louis.

“These allegations were never presented to the board at least since I came on in 2019,” said Nathan Mizell, former vice chair of the board. “Never came up at any part portion of the interview process to become chief. Never brought to our attention [in] any way by the city manager.”