OAKLAND — The city’s police commission flexed their power and fired Chief Anne Kirkpatrick, who became the city’s first female chief of police three years ago, in a special meeting Thursday night.
The decision was made unanimously by the police commission and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf during a closed session.
During a press conference held by Schaaf, the decision to terminate Kirkpatrick clearly rested with the police commission, and she sided with those holding power. She said it was a personnel matter and would not provide further explanation. Reporters seemed bewildered at a lack of explanation since Kirkpatrick was hired three years prior amid an organization that had disastrous leadership in the years leading up to her hire.
“So tonight, Oakland’s police commission voted to terminate the chief, and request that I, as mayor, join them in a joint ‘no-cause’ termination, which I accepted,” Schaaf said as she opened the press conference.
However, the commission chair, Regina Jackson, said in a statement that the panel had, since its inception in 2016, “observed the Oakland Police Department’s failure to increase compliance with the court-ordered reforms” required under a federal settlement more than a decade ago, The Mercury News reported.
The commission voted to request that Schaaf join the commission in firing Kirkpatrick, and the mayor agreed. Schaaf cited in a statement the voter-approved Measure LL, which allows the police commission and the mayor to jointly dismiss the chief without cause.
“The Police Commission is the community’s voice in our system of checks and balances, and I respect its authority and its role,” Schaaf said in a written statement. “In 2016, Oakland voters created the strongest and most independent Police Commission in America. Tonight, the commissioners exercised their power.
“As Mayor, it is my duty to determine when the trust between The Police Commission and the Police Chief has become irrevocably lost and prevents Oakland from moving forward,” Schaaf said in a statement, which was clearly emphasized during the press conference.
“Fighting for Oakland’s residents and Police Officers alike does not endear you to Oakland’s unelected Police Commissioners and our Mayor.”
– Barry Donelan, Oakland POA President
The Oakland police union opposed the political decision and expressed disappointment over the firing.
“Chief Anne Kirkpatrick was a well-respected leader of the Oakland Police Department and was making significant progress in bringing stability to OPD,” Oakland Police Officers’ Association President Barry Donelan said in a statement. “But fighting for Oakland’s residents and Police Officers alike does not endear you to Oakland’s unelected Police Commissioners and our Mayor.”
Kirkpatrick took over as chief of police in February 2017, succeeding former Chief Sean Whent, the fourth chief of the department since 2009, and two interim chiefs who served briefly after him.
At the time, she was tasked with bringing reform and accountability to an embattled department that had been under federal oversight for more than a decade. The agency was also reeling from a sexual misconduct scandal in which officers were charged with having sex with the teenage daughter of a police dispatcher who was underage and giving her confidential police information.
But Kirkpatrick has faced sharp criticism over the discipline she handed out to officers who shot and killed a homeless man in 2018.
Records released under a new police transparency law last year showed growing tensions between the police department and federal monitor Robert Warshaw, who reports to a federal judge and has broad powers over the department.
Kirkpatrick went against recommendations of her own commanders, who found that senior officers made mistakes at the scene of the shooting of Joshua Pawlik, 31, in 2018, Warshaw found. Pawlik was shot and killed in North Oakland after police found him asleep with a gun next to him.
Federal oversight has dragged on for almost two decades as the department has struggled to comply with a negotiated settlement agreement reached in 2003 stemming from the Riders police misconduct case. What has mostly prevented the department complying with the federal court-ordered reform is disputes about officer use of force.
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Nevertheless, Schaaf expressed gratitude for the “stability” Kirkpatrick had brought to the department as she essentially outlined a stellar review of the chief.
“Under her leadership, Oakland saw one of its lowest periods of gun violence and officer-involved shootings, as well as new anti-racial profiling policies that significantly reduced discretionary stops of African Americans,” Schaaf said.
Kirkpatrick, the former Spokane police chief and once second in command of the King County Sheriff’s Office, was hired to lead police reforms with the Chicago Police Department following the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald in 2014.
Kirkpatrick was one of three finalists to replace former Chicago police superintendent Garry McCarthy. Then Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel chose 28-year Chicago police veteran Eddie Johnson for the post.
Subsequent to his hiring, Johnson named Kirkpatrick head of the police department’s Bureau of Professional Standards, The Seattle Times reported in 2016.
Her tenure at CPD was short-lived as Oakland hired her as police chief January 4, 2017 (she assumed command in February).
Darren Allison, assistant chief of police, will serve as acting chief until an new leader is appointed. Kirkpatrick could not immediately be reached for comment.