Skip to main content

Oakland loses 7th police chief in as many years

Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong takes questions from the media during a press conference at police headquarters in Downtown Oakland on Monday, Dec. 27, 2021. | Jane Tyska/Digital First Media/East Bay Times via Getty Images

Oakland lost its seventh top cop in as many years because he allegedly tried to cover up an officer's misconduct.

Mayor Sheng Thao announced her decision nearly a month after putting Chief LeRonne Armstrong on paid leave over a scathing report that found his department twice failed to hold an officer accountable.

Thao announced her decision at a press conference Wednesday, saying she tried to keep an open mind about Chief Armstrong but lost confidence in his ability to lead the city’s police force.

“This was not an easy decision, but it is one that I believe is necessary,” Thao told reporters. “This process has reinforced my commitment to making decisions based on the best interests of the department and the city of Oakland and not based on personal feelings or relationships.”

The firing stems from an independent report that accused OPD of failing to properly discipline a sergeant over a hit-and-run and for allegedly firing a gun in the elevator of a police building.

Thao, who took office in January, said she wants to be confident that the police chief in the city of 400,000 people will be effective “in making improvements that can be recognized by the federal monitor, the federal court and the people of Oakland.”

“I am no longer confident that Chief Armstrong can do the work needed to achieve the vision, so today I have decided to separate Chief LeRonne Armstrong from the city without cause,” she said.

Thao placed Armstrong on paid leave last month to review investigations by the department’s federal monitor that found the police chief responsible for gross dereliction of duty.

The probes by the law firm of Clarence Dyer and Cohen concluded Armstrong failed to investigate and discipline a sergeant after he was involved in a hit-and-run with a parked car in 2021 at his apartment building in San Francisco, according to a report first obtained by KTVU-TV and made public by Oaklandside.

The Oakland Police Department made national news in 2000, after a rookie officer came forward to report abuse of power by a group of officers known as the Oakland Riders. The four officers were charged with making false arrests, planting evidence, using excessive force, falsifying police reports and assaulting people in West Oakland, a predominantly Black area. Three of the officers were acquitted after two separate juries deadlocked on most of the charges. The fourth officer is a fugitive and is believed to have fled the country.

The case resulted in the department coming under federal oversight in 2003 and being required to enact 52 reform measures, and report its progress to an outside monitor and a federal judge.

Armstrong, an Oakland native, was appointed in 2021 with promises of enacting all the reforms within a year. He has received the backing of some of the city's Black leaders, including John Burris, one of two attorneys who in 2000 filed the lawsuit against the police department on behalf of 119 plaintiffs.

Armstrong didn't immediately comment on Thao's decision.

The Associated Press also contributed to this report.

Filed Under