The U.S. District Court judge in charge of the Oakland Police Department's federal oversight says he’s “concerned” that the city hasn’t had a police chief for a full year now. Well, how do you think 450,000 Oakland residents feel, pal?
It was actually a year ago this past Sunday when Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong was yanked off his job over alleged mishandling of an internal disciplinary investigation (he was formally fired nearly a month later). And while he’s made noise about wanting his job back, the Oakland Police Commission has overseen a bizarrely politicized process that has resulted in the recommendation of only Armstrong and some other suspect candidates, all of whom Mayor Sheng Thao has rejected. Hence, no permanent Oakland Police Chief for a year as crime in that city soars.
The lack of a permanent police chief was a sore point with U.S. District Court Judge William Orrick in an early Wednesday morning hearing on the ongoing federal oversight of the OPD. (That process has been going on for more than 21 years.) And KTVU reports Orrick went off that he was “concerned” that Oakland has gone so long without a proper police chief.
Oakland Police Commission chair Marcia Peterson told Orrick that she had declared a "media blackout" on any further police chief deliberations, so hearings like this are apparently all we’re going to hear about the process for the time being. But she insisted the commission was meeting weekly to come up with a better list of candidates.
She admitted the first list was "not robust," as after all, it contained the fired Armstrong and the San Leandro Police Chief who is himself on forced administrative leave. She insisted they would offer a new and improved short list by March 1.
"So keep working at it," Orrick reportedly told her.
But for perspective, a recent Oaklandside reports out that Oakland has taken forever to find a police chief before. Oakland lacked a permanent police chief for a year and a half between October 2011 and May 2013 (a time during which there was plenty of Occupy Oakland unrest), and for nearly a year between April 2020 and February 2021, with the backdrop of the George Floyd riots, before Armstrong was eventually hired from within.
Image: OAKLAND, CA - MAY 09: Acting Oakland police chief Anthony Toribio looks on during a news conference at Oakland police headquarters on May 9, 2013 in Oakland, California. A day after Oakland police chief Howard Jordan abruptly resigned citing medical reasons, a report by the Bratton Group that was commissioned by the City of Oakland revealed problems in the department in several key areas. The report comes days after the FBI reported that Oakland has the highest robbery rate in the country with an average of 12 robberies occuring every day. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)