Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf has hired the city's first female chief of police, as multiple news sources are reporting this morning, and that is Anne Kirkpatrick, a former chief of Spokane's police department who most recently had been the head of the Chicago PD's Bureau of Professional Standards after failing to land the top cop job there. Kirkpatrick has 30 years of law enforcement under her belt, according to the Chronicle, is a licensed attorney herself, and originally hails from Memphis, TN and as this piece last year from the Chicago Tribune explains, she is well known for taking over the chief spot in Spokane in a time of turmoil there following a highly controversial officer-involved killing in 2006.
It's been a seven-month search for a new police chief in Oakland, a search that ran parallel to San Francisco's own which concluded with the selection of veteran LAPD cop William Scott just before the holidays, an outsider like Kirkpatrick with no local connections. But Oakland's vacancy was spurred not by the same spate of officer-involved killings of unarmed or barely armed civilians as in SF, but rather the chief's job passed in quick succession between two men in the department following the forced resignation of chief Sean Whent in June 2016 amidst a far-reaching sex scandal involving a formerly underage sex worker. That scandal, combined with another that also surfaced last summer involving racist texts exchanged between OPD officers, led Schaaf to suspend multiple officers, fire her third chief within a week, and declare that "I am here to run a police department, not a frat house." In the interim, City Administrator Sabrina Landreth had been serving as administrative head of the OPD.
This means that all of Oakland's public safety and law enforcement will be headed by women going into 2017, including the fire department. In addition to the announcement of Kirkpatrick's hiring as police chief, which is expected to be made formal this morning, Schaaf also announced Tuesday the hiring of former Kamala Harris advisor Venus Johnson to the position of Director of Public Safety. The new cabinet-level position will, according to a statement given to the East Bay Times, work to "break cycles of violence in Oakland through effective crime prevention" and will advise the mayor and serve as liaison with community groups, the school district, and local, county and federal law enforcement agencies. And it sounds like it will be an extra level of oversight for law enforcement, not unlike the position Kirkpatrick is leaving in Chicago.
The hirings come at a time of great public unrest and distrust in law enforcement brought on by several years of fatal officer-involved shootings that have been widely criticized, televised, and litigated. The 2006 incident in Spokane involved a janitor named Otto Zehm who was beaten and hog-tied during a confrontation with police in a convenience store, ultimately leading to his death. Surveillance video later revealed Zehm retreating from officers, disproving officers' statements that he had lunged at them.
And much like she will likely face among Oakland's rank-and-file, Kirkpatrick faced pushback and criticism from the police union in Spokane, such as this no-confidence vote in 2010 reported on by The Inlander at the time Kirkpatrick was applying for the police chief job in Seattle.
Much like in Oakland, Chicago has also had federal oversight in recent decades and a laundry list of reforms to be implemented at the command of the Department of Justice.