A five-year-old sexual misconduct allegation has roiled the appointment of interim Police Chief Jennifer Louis into the position permanently, and city council has plenty of questions on why this information never surfaced.
Interim Berkeley Police Chief Jennifer Louis has had the “interim” label since being appointed to the position in March 2021. After the city had interviewed several other finalists, they announced Louis as the permanent choice in late October, with the mere formality of a Berkeley City Council vote to approve her, originally scheduled for November 15.
That didn’t happen, and it may not be happening soon. The Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday that Louis had a sexual misconduct allegation from 2017, with allegations from three different women, only one of which was confirmed by an outside independent law firm. Then on Thursday, the Chronicle reported that Berkeley City Council members say they were not informed of the allegations, and were just learning of all this when it hit the newspapers.
“As a council member, I’m very unhappy to learn that there was potential and material information that was not available to us,” Councilmember Sophie Hahn told the Chronicle. “That’s really my biggest concern. Honestly.”
The one allegation that was confirmed, and for which Louis did receive a reprimand, is from 2017. It involved Berkeley police officer Heather Haney, and occurred at a police barbecue party.
“Haney alleged that Louis told her daughter to throw a water balloon at Haney because she was wearing a white tank top,” according to the Chronicle. “Haney also said Louis made a comment about her child not latching on during breastfeeding, saying, ‘she likes to f— around with the nipple’ and ‘You know what that’s like.’”
Louis was originally given a five-day suspension, though appealed it, and won the appeal. She was merely given a reprimand letter after that.
In a statement to the Chronicle, Louis said that “I was fully cleared five years ago after a thorough appeal hearing that included presentation of considerable witness evidence the investigator failed to include or obtain during his examination.” She added, “I have never committed sexual harassment. Nor have I ever discriminated or retaliated against any member of the department or the community.”
The Berkeley City Council vote on Louis’s permanent appointment still has not been scheduled, and obviously, this complicates that vote.
Image: Berkeley Police Department