There was some next-level dysfunction Thursday night in the search for a new Oakland police chief, with three members of the Oakland Police Commission boycotting their own meeting and denying the commission quorum or the ability to make a vote.
While crime of all types is soaring across the board in Oakland, the city has been without a permanent police chief since then-Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong was fired in February after he was placed on administrative leave in January over the alleged mishandling of an internal investigation. But speaking of mishandling, it’s eight months after Armstrong’s dismissal, and the Oakland Police Commission has still not produced a list of candidates to replace him.
Meanwhile, Armstrong and his camp have taken advantage of this (intentional?) delay, with a public PR circus with staged events designed to get him his job back. And it helped Armstrong's case earlier this month, when an arbitrator cleared him of any wrongdoing in the internal investigation over which he was fired. That’s got some commissioners thinking Armstong should just be reinstated — and as KRON4 reports, most of the members of the public who spoke at Thursday night's hastily arranged town hall meeting with the police commission were in favor the reinstatement as well.
Other commissioners disagree, and they seem to think the fix is in for Armstrong, effectively believing that some on the commission are trying to strong-arm him back into the job. As such, NBC Bay Area reports that three commissioners boycotted Thursday’s commission meeting, denying the body a quorum, and leaving them unable to make any recommendation at that meeting.
The boycott had been telegraphed in advance. Oaklandside reported the day before the meeting that commissioners Marsha Peterson and Regina Jackson, and alternate commissioner Karely Ordaz said they would refuse to show up over the alleged fast-tracking of Armstrong’s reinstatement. Per Oaklandside, they also claim that commission vice chair David Jordan “became angry and physically tried to intimidate them during a recent meeting,” so political hay is being made of that, too.
There was still a meeting Thursday night, but the remaining commissioners declared it a “town hall” with the perhaps leading-question title of Should the Oakland Police Commission Recommend LeRonne Armstrong Be Reinstated as Chief of Police?
"They were wrong for firing Chief Armstrong in the beginning," Oakland resident Gail Harbin said at the meeting, according to KTVU. "They did not allow due process before they fired him, and they should reinstate him because it was very premature."
"We elected this mayor. We had a good turnout in that election," another resident Jenny Zilliac told the commission, per KTVU. "We elected that mayor and she’s being undermined by the same group of people who is in that room every chance they get, and their job as the police commission is not to undermine the mayor."
According to NBC Bay Area, the three boycotting commissioners put out a statement before the meeting.
"We chose not to attend the commission meeting and all future meetings under the leadership of Chair Tyfahra Milele and Vice Chair Jordan for two main reasons,” the statement said. “(1) We do not support toxic masculinity in the form of bullying by Vice Chair Jordan and (2) the agenda did not represent the full body and misled the public regarding the status of former chief Armstrong's ability to be our next chief.”
Note that “all future meetings” language there. As Oaklandside points out, chair Milele and vice chair Jordan are termed out next month. So the boycotting commissioners could just run out the clock on them. There is another police commission meeting scheduled for October 12, so maybe this will all get hashed out. But this high-level dysfunction and drama may be making it a bigger question as to what kind of qualified police chief would actually want this job.
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