Oakland police chief on leave after reporting criticism of officer misconduct

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Oakland’s newly elected mayor has sent Chief of Police LeRonne Armstrong on administrative leave following a damning outside report that the department had mishandled instances of officer misconduct.

Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao and city manager Ed Reiskin announced the change in leadership Thursday night.

“The decision was not taken lightly, but we believe it is critical to the safety of our community that we build trust between the ministry 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 released Wednesday by law firm Clarence Dyer & Cohen LLP, which the City of Oakland hired last year to investigate alleged misconduct and the response of the Oakland Police Department, highlighted two cases. The first involved an incident in 2021 where a sergeant crashed his vehicle into another car and drove off. He did not report the incident. The second was a 2022 case where the same sergeant fired his gun into a freight elevator at a police building. Again, no one reported the incident.

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The outside attorneys found that the department did not properly discipline the sergeant and that Armstrong did not effectively review the evidence of the two incidents before closing the investigation.

“The many failures, at every level, to hold this sergeant accountable contradicts OPD’s position that it can monitor itself and hold its members accountable for misconduct,” the report said.

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 a year’s probation last spring, signaling that it may be coming to an end comes to supervision.

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Both the mayor and the city government made the decision to send Armstrong on leave as part of their effort to “improve our accountability and transparency systems,” as required by the settlement agreement.

“We must hold officers accountable when they violate public trust,” they said.

Armstrong was appointed chief in February 2021 by former mayor Libby Schaaf to replace Anne Kirkpatrick, who was fired in a move that led a jury to conclude last year that she was wrongfully fired for whistleblowing. According to city officials, Assistant Chief Darren Allison will now serve as acting chief.

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