The city of Oakland has now gone seven months without a proper police chief while crime is spiking. Mayor Sheng Thao says the city's police commission is dragging its feet, so she’s threatening to declare a state of emergency over the matter.
The February firing of Oakland police chief LeRonne Armstrong was a weird chapter, springing from the allegation that he covered up police misconduct, then turning into a public PR circus with staged publicity events hoping to get Armstrong his job back. That hasn’t worked, and now the attempt to hire his replacement is shaping up to be an even weirder chapter. But yes, this process has gone on for awhile.
KTVU reports that Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao is threatening to declare a state of emergency over the now-seven-month lack of a permanent police chief in Oakland. Meanwhile, crime is up across the board in Oakland during this lengthy interim. The city’s police commission has not provided Thao with any candidates to interview, and the mayor says if they don’t give her qualified candidates so she can have someone in place by the end of the year, the (probably symbolic) state of emergency will be on.
"I'm really hopeful that we will [get a chief before then]," Thao told KTVU in an interview. "And if we don't – and I'll say it right here today — and if we don't, I will declare a state of emergency to get a police chief, because this process has been held up by the police commission for far too long with all the shenanigans, the internal fighting."
The police commission, meanwhile, says they have a structured timeline that still has them in the “Candidate research and recruitment” phase. Final candidate interviews with the police commission aren’t scheduled until the week of October 16, and those interviews with the mayor aren’t until October 23.
And that process has still been fraught with gossipy drama. Thao removed one police commissioner in late June, and that commissioner had choice words for Thao on her way out. Also, the current president was voted out of her position, yet claims this is all puppet-mastering by Mayor Thao.
"The mayor created this crisis and liability by dismissing the former police chief… without a plan," that outgoing commission president Tyfahra Milele said in a Slack message obtained by KTVU. "We urge the mayor not to scapegoat the comission [sic] for the city's lack of response on public safety concerns….and we urge the mayor to not threaten to usurp the commission's legal authority and responsibility for the hiring process, like she did with the dismissal of the former police chief."
This drama all seems tied to the now-20-year-plus federal oversight of the Oakland Police Department. Thao and her allies argue the oversight needs to continue to keep the department in line, while opponents say the oversight administrators are simply trying to line their pockets with federal dollars. And there is a timeline in place that Oakland will probably have a new permanent police chief in place come November, so much of this is likely bluster.
Image: @MayorShengThao via Twitter