Placed on paid administrative leave over alleged mishandling of internal discipline, Oakland police chief LeRonne Armstrong is going on offense with a lawyer, PR representative, and allies he’s rounded up.
Whether she wanted to or not, new Oakland mayor Sheng Thao laid down a marker and picked a political fight when she placed Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong on paid administrative leave last Thursday. Chief Armstrong is not fired, just sidelined indefinitely (with a distinct possibility that he could be fired) over allegedly lax discipline with a particular sergeant. That sergeant had two misconduct cases — in 2021 fleeing the scene of a hit-and-run accident he caused with a department-issued vehicle, and in 2022 firing his weapon inside a department elevator and allegedly disposing of the evidence, tossing the bullet shell casings off the Bay Bridge.
JUST IN: OPD Chief LeRonne Armstrong is lawyering up, and has hired Bay Area PR pro Sam Singer after being placed on admin leave. Singer repped former Chief Anne Kirkpatrick, who won a wrongful termination suit against the city last year @ktvu pic.twitter.com/wUhDUV1VcY— Evan Sernoffsky (@EvanSernoffsky) January 23, 2023
But just four days after being placed on leave, Armstrong is pushing back and publicly asking to be reinstated, according to the Chronicle. We’ll know more after his 11 a.m. Monday press conference, but the Chron reports he’s retained longtime local public relations consultant Sam Singer, and KTVU reports he’s lawyered up with attorney Will Edelman of the firm Delahunty & Edelman.
For her part, Mayor Thao is holding firm that Armstrong will remain on leave. “Under this administration, there will be no different kind of treatment, whether you’re the chief or rank-and-file,” Thao said at a Saturday press conference covered by the Chronicle. “This is an opportunity to more fully review the findings of the reports and let our oversight bodies act.”
KTVU also covered that Saturday press conference, and notes that Thao added, “We are still awaiting for more documents. It is our understanding that there will be more documents that will be arriving soon.”
Preliminary announcements before Armstrong speaks out today indicate the shape of his defense. KTVU quotes a release from Armstrong's team saying that he did take action on the hit-and-run, but that in the case of the gun discharge cover-up, court-appointed federal monitor Robert Warshaw "took the case away from OPD,” and therefore Armstrong never had “the opportunity to take appropriate action against the officer again.” Warshaw has been a Department of Justice monitor of the Oakland Police Department for more than a decade, as that department continues to sort through years worth of misconduct scandals.
And there is certainly a political angle here too. KTVU reports that Mayor Thao “is now facing pressure from a growing group of Armstrong supporters,” and that “Some of those supporters include former councilman Loren Taylor.” Yes, that is the same Loren Taylor who ran against Thao for mayor, just barely losing by a few hundred votes. And folks, that election is also heading toward a recount.
Related: Oakland Police Chief Placed on Administrative Leave Over Alleged Mishandling of Internal Investigation [SFist]
Image: @oaklandpoliceca via Twitter