By Paloma Sifuentes
OAKLAND, CA- Mayor Sheng Thao of Oakland earlier this month fired Chief LeRonne Armstrong, after a federal monitor’s report questioned the chief’s response to misconduct by one of his sergeants. Two department lieutenants were also put on paid leave.
“The federal judge overseeing the City said that he was profoundly disappointed in the evidence he’d seen and that the report demonstrates significant cultural problems in the Department,” noting the judge “concluded that OPD had repeatedly failed to rigorously investigate misconduct and hold officers accountable…Chief Armstrong made a number of statements that troubled me,” said the mayor.
According to Chief Armstrong, these were not incidents where officers behaved poorly” and described an incident as “a minor vehicle collision…officers made mistakes… the sergeant involved in a vehicle collision was held accountable.” He also said he did not believe these incidents reflected “systemic problems.”
“I was wrongly terminated for standing up for the City of Oakland,” said former Chief Armstrong. “As police chief, I did my job and I think I did it well. My termination was never really about the facts or my ability to lead the Oakland Police Department—my termination was about Federal Monitor Robert Warshaw and the mayor’s failure to fight for the Oakland community.”
However, Mayor Thao noted Armstrong disregarded “the independent investigator’s findings of serious flaws in the disciplinary process.”
In response to his statement Mayor Thao said, “I can say that it is clear to me that there are systemic issues the City needs to address, and that we cannot simply write them off as ‘mistakes.’”
Mayor Thao added, “Oakland needs a police department that welcomes opportunities for improvement, rather than immediately rejecting criticism. And I made a commitment, as your mayor, to ensure that the Police Department and the City can prove, once and for all, that Oakland is ready to ensure constitutional policing without federal oversight.”
The mayor said that “the police commission and I now have the difficult task of finding the Police Department’s next leader and role model… finding candidates who are committed to reform and who have demonstrated the ability to improve community/police relationships.”