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Oakland Police Chief Fired Without Cause, Considering Lawsuit Against City

Former Oakland Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick is considering a lawsuit after she was fired by the civilian review board.

Oakland, CA – The civilian police oversight board unanimously voted to fire Oakland Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick without cause on Feb. 20.

During her three years in office, the now-former chief consistently garnered positive feedback from city leaders, Oakland officers, and the police union, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

“When I was hired, I was given a mandate to reduce crime, stabilize the department, shift culture [and] have police accountability,” former Chief Kirkpatrick said. “I have met those mandates. And I’ve exceeded them.”

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Under the 60-year-old police chief’s watch, overall crime decreased each year with the exception of 2019, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

“The last three years of my tenure were the three lowest consecutive years of the lowest crime rate in 20 years,” she told KTVU.

So far this year, the city’s homicide rate is at a 64-year low, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

“I think, obviously, they were trying to get ‘just cause’… and they couldn’t get it,” the now-former chief said of the Oakland Police Commission’s closed-session meetings. “So, I guess that’s why I got fired without cause.”

Former Chief Kirkpatrick said she is “outraged” by how the commission handled her ouster, and that she also plans to ask the U.S. Department of Justice to open an investigation into the federal court’s oversight of the Oakland Police Department (OPD).

The federal monitoring began 17 years ago in the wake of incidents of abuse and racial profiling by a group of OPD officers, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

The federal court’s oversight was originally slated to last just five years, but the OPD must also complete over 50 “tasks” and multiple subtasks in order for the oversight to conclude.

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Approximately three weeks before she was fired, Chief Kirkpatrick said that the department was finally nearing full completion of the tasks.

Jim Chanin, the attorney for the plaintiffs in the case that led to the federal monitoring, said that the turnaround under Chief Kirkpatrick’s administration has been “remarkable,” the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Chanin – an outspoken police critic – was quick to compliment the former chief, and praised the 62 percent reduction in stops involving African Americans that occurred during her tenure.

The Oakland Police Commission, which was created by a voter-approved ballot initiative in 2016, also voted to fire five OPD officers in the wake of a 2018 officer-involved shooting, even though they were cleared of wrongdoing, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Former Chief Kirkpatrick said she refused to fire the officers, even at the insistence of the commission and the federal monitor, Robert Warshaw, KTVU reported.

“I cannot be bullied to change my opinion. I knew that if I had called that shooting out of policy that I would have been the darling of reform. I would have had great headlines. You all would’ve thought I was amazing,” she told KTVU on Monday.

“I was not willing to sell out,” the former police chief continued. “If [that] shooting is the reason they were looking to terminate me before due process has come to an end, then something is definitely wrong with our system.”

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Chief Kirkpatrick had also gotten into heated disputes with the seven-member commission during her tenure, to include multiple run-ins with Oakland Police Commissioner Ginale Harris.

One of their disputes involved a disagreement regarding the OPD’s plan to hire more women of color, while another stemmed from Harris being investigated after she got into an argument with employees at her son’s school, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

On Monday, former Chief Kirkpatrick said that she believes she was fired for refusing to cave to Harris’ demand to be reimbursed for towing fees back in 2018, KTVU reported.

Chief Kirkpatrick addressed the issue in a confidential memo to the city’s human resources department in September of 2018, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

The report, which was written by a private investigator, alleged that Harris demanded that the OPD reimburse her for towing fees, flashed her commissioner badge, and ordered department employees to let her speak with the chief.

At the time, Chief Kirkpatrick said she was “concerned about retaliation” because she refused to bow to Harris’ demands by giving her any “special treatment,” the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf signed off on the action to fire the police chief following the commission’s unanimous vote last week.

“The police commission is the community’s voice,” said Schaaf, who appointed Chief Kirkpatrick back in 2017. “The voters of Oakland in 2016 created the most powerful and independent police commission in the country. Tonight, they exercised that power.”

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Schaaf said it was her duty as mayor to determine when the relationship between the oversight commission and the police chief had become “irrevocably lost,” and prevented the city “from moving forward,” according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Coalition for Police Accountability activist Rashidah Grinage, whose group helped form the police oversight commission, said that Chief Kirkpatrick’s firing “shouldn’t have come as a surprise,” KTVU reported.

According to Grinage, the police chief was not being aggressive enough with police reforms and hadn’t done enough to convince the commission that she was moving the department in a positive direction.

“There is no other commission that exists in the United States that I’m aware of that has the authority to unilaterally terminate a police chief,” said Emmanuel College sociology professor Tom Nolan, who also served 27 years as a Boston police officer. “Oakland is kind of standalone here.”

Former Chief Kirkpatrick said she is considering filing a lawsuit against the city over her abrupt dismissal, KTVU reported.

“I’m embarrassed. Those headlines went national,” the longtime law enforcement officer told KTVU. “It’s painful to me. It’s not how I would like to end 38 years.”

She said she was also stunned by Schaaf’s sudden change of opinion about her work.

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“I’m really surprised and quite disappointed,” former Chief Kirkpatrick said. “Three weeks ago, [Schaaf] asked me to go Washington, D.C., and she’s introducing me as her fabulous police chief. Two weeks ago, she’s saying in front of staff members that she was going to fight for me. I believed her.”

Former Chief Kirkpatrick said it is important to her that citizens know that she is “a woman of integrity.”

“I am willing to stand on my values,” she told KTVU. “I am willing to lose a job by standing on my values. No regrets.”

The former police chief said she is disappointed that she wasn’t able to push the department out of the era of federal oversight, but noted that Warshaw has little reason to bring the monitoring to an end for the lucrative federal contract.

“It’s a million-dollar contract. Where is the incentive to find you in compliance?” former Chief Kirkpatrick asked KTVU. “When we look at the watchdog system you need to look at everybody because it has ties to government money that are being spent. I think someone needs to come in and look at the entire situation.”

“I am truly, deeply concerned about these 17 years of federal oversight,” she told the San Francisco Chronicle. “Something is wrong.”

Holly Matkin - February Tue, 2020

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