Oakland police chief placed on leave after report criticizes handling of officer misconduct
Oakland’s newly elected mayor has placed Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong on administrative leave following a blistering outside report that found the department mishandled cases of officer misconduct.
Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao and City Administrator Ed Reiskin announced the change in leadership Thursday night.
“The decision was not taken lightly, but we believe that it is critical for the safety of our community that we build trust and confidence between the Department and the public,” the two city leaders said in a statement. “We must have transparency and accountability to move forward as a safer and stronger Oakland.”
The report delivered Wednesday by law firm Clarence Dyer & Cohen LLP, which the city of Oakland had hired last year to investigate alleged misconduct and the Oakland Police Department’s response, highlighted two cases. The first involved an incident in 2021 in which a sergeant crashed his vehicle into another car and drove away. He did not report the incident. The second was a 2022 case in which the same sergeant fired his gun inside a freight elevator at a police building. Again, no one reported the incident.
The outside lawyers found that the department did not appropriately discipline the sergeant and that Armstrong failed to effectively review evidence from the two incidents before ending the investigations.
Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong is extending a plan that he says has tamped down violent crime, but for some activists the strategy is a return to failed policies of the past.
“The multiple failures, at every level, to hold this sergeant responsible, belie OPD’s stated position that it can police itself and hold its members accountable for misconduct,” the report stated.
The department has been under federal oversight for two decades in the wake of a police corruption scandal in the early 2000s. The federal judge overseeing the case placed the department on one-year probation period last spring, signaling an end to the oversight might be near.
Both the mayor and city administrator framed the decision to place Armstrong on leave as part of their effort to “improve our systems for accountability and transparency” as required by the settlement agreement.
“We have to hold officers accountable when they violate the public trust,” they said.
Armstrong was appointed chief by former Mayor Libby Schaaf in February 2021 to replace Anne Kirkpatrick, who was fired in a move that led to a jury finding last year that she was wrongfully terminated for whistleblowing. Assistant Chief Darren Allison will now serve as acting chief, according to the city officials.
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