Oakland's former police chief won a wrongful termination case two months ago, and now the Oakland City Council has approved a $1.5 million settlement for her, which includes a year's pay.
Anne Kirkpatrick only lasted three years on the job as the chief of the Oakland Police Department — a job she took after the department went through several scandals and a year of turmoil that saw a round-robin of chiefs installed and then soon fired or resigned. But her abrupt firing in February 2020 came after some conflicts with the city's newly established Police Commission — and Kirkpatrick and her attorneys made the case in her lawsuit that she was a whistleblower who was fired for trying to expose some petty corruption and misdeeds by police commissioners.
The lawsuit was filed just six months after her termination, in August 2020, and this past May, Kirkpatrick prevailed in court — with the initial damages awarded being just 12 months salary, or $337,000.
Kirkpatrick was offered a year's severance at the time of her firing, but she refused it, and instead took this to court. And now, as KRON4 reports, the Oakland City Council is set to approve a $1.5 million settlement — an amount that includes the year's salary, plus attorney fees and other expenses. Kirkpatrick had originally sued for $3 million, including emotional damages.
The council apparently already voted to approve the settlement in a closed-door session on Thursday, and Kirkpatrick has issued a statement.
"I feel vindicated by the jury's conclusion that I was fired in retaliation for blowing the whistle on wrongdoing at the Oakland Police Commission," Kirkpatrick says. "I hope that the agreement in my favor is a signal to all who are witnesses to misconduct, especially those in law enforcement: do not stay silent. Our system depends on people who will do the right thing, even when it is the hard thing. I look forward to putting this chapter behind me and to continuing my career in public service."
The City of Oakland says in a settlement agreement that it still denies all wrongdoing and liability, and it "does not admit any of Kirkpatrick's allegations."
Kirkpatrick alleged in a press release that Oakland police commissioners "routinely abused their power, corruptly looked for special treatment from the Police Department, frequently abused and harassed OPD staff, interfered in day-to-day police operations, and sought unlawful access to confidential documents."
And, Kirkpatrick said, there were a "series of incidents involving individual Police Commissioners ultimately drove the Chief to submit multiple reports of inappropriate and unlawful conduct to the Oakland City Attorney’s Office, the City Administrator, and the Mayor of Oakland."
One of the allegations was petty enough: Kirkpatrick said that one police commissioner who sought her firing, Ginale Harris, inappropriately tried to get a parking ticket fixed.
Anyway, Kirkpatrick and that police commission did not get along! And they connected her firing to a 2018 incident in which OPD officers fatally shot a homeless man and Kirkpatrick opposed firing the five officers.
Those five officers also won a wrongful termination suit earlier this year, with a judge saying they should not have been fired over the incident — and four of the five officers involved had shot beanbag rounds.
The city earlier settled a wrongful death case with Pawlik's mother for $1.4 million 2020.