(KRON) — Oakland’s ex-police chief, LeRonne Armstrong, held a news conference with reporters on Monday to speak out about his termination as the city’s top cop.
Armstrong was fired by Mayor Sheng Thao in February. Thao said she fired Armstrong “without cause” because he allegedly failed to discipline officers who committed misconduct and lacked credibility.
Armstrong said a new report issued by a judge who reviewed his administrative appeal and had a “favorable outcome.” The new report called for discussions between the city and Armstrong to consider his reinstatement, according to the ex-chief’s spokesperson.
On Monday Armstrong said, “I was not guilty of any of these allegations. Today is that vindication. I did not engage in policy violations. This concludes the fact that I did not do anything wrong.”
Judge Maria Rivera, who served as an independent fact finder, recommended that the city reverse Armstrong’s termination.
“Long story short, the chief has been vindicated,” the ex-chief’s attorney said. “The chief never should have been disciplined. The criticisms of him were unfounded.”
The new report that allegedly vindicated Armstrong was not released to the media.
The City of Oakland Police Commission, however, confirmed the report’s findings.
The police commission wrote, “Judge Rivera has recommended ‘that the parties meet and confer, together with their counsel to discuss all of the ways in which this dispute might be resolved in negotiations, including the possibility of reinstatement.”
While Armstrong continues fighting to get his old job back, Thao is digging in her heels.
Thao wrote on Monday, “Mr. Armstrong had a right under state law to object to his termination and have a neutral hearing officer make non-binding recommendations to the city. While I similarly cannot publicly discuss the hearing officer’s findings, since they are personnel records, I will say that there was no recommendation that I reverse my decision to move the department forward under new leadership.”
Oakland’s mayor continues to criticize Armstrong’s leadership ability. “Mr. Armstrong failed to stand up for accountability at OPD,” she said.
Armstrong told reporters, “When I was chief, we had a plan. Violent crime is completely out of control right now. I am who I said I was, someone who is committed to the City of Oakland. It’s my passion for Oakland, I am true and blue Oakland, I would not violate the trust of this city.”
In February, Thao said she lost confidence in Armstrong’s ability to reform the Oakland Police Department after he downplayed the seriousness of an investigation by a Federal Monitor. Federal Monitor Robert Warshaw’s investigation report stated that some OPD officers committed misconduct, however, they were never disciplined when Armstrong was chief.
The Federal Monitor said OPD “repeatedly failed to rigorously investigate misconduct and hold officers accountable,” and had “serious flaws in the disciplinary process.”
Thao wrote, “At the beginning of this year, I was faced with the difficult decision of how Oakland and our Police Department could ensure our commitment to accountability and reform in light of a troubling report illustrating failures within our disciplinary process. I was troubled by then-Chief Armstrong’s many statements indicating that he saw no need for deep reflection or change within the department. It is important that we remember the context; we were in the process of determining whether an officer committed a hit-and-run and failed to report it, and whether OPD failed to rigorously investigate it. Before he had seen the full report, much less the underlying evidence, and while he was still the Chief of Police, Mr. Armstong immediately dismissed the allegations as ‘mistakes’ and not systematic problems, and insisted the officer had already been held accountable. That lack of leadership led me to lose confidence in his commitment to reform, and his ability to serve Oakalnd as a credible messenger and partner to the federal court and federal monitor in finally ending 20 years of oversight. My decision was based on Mr. Armstrong’s knee-jerk response to the outside investigator’s report and the poor judgment it revealed, not on the report itself. “
Oakland has been left without a permanent police chief ever since Armstrong was fired. Crime soared into double digits, according to the Oakland Police Commission.
The commission is in charge of searching for a new chief and selecting candidates. If the process continues to drag past December, Thao said she will step in, expedite it, and call for a state of emergency.
If the police commission gives Thao a list of candidates by her December deadline, she may not be happy with the list. Oakland Police Commission Chair Tyfahra Milele said Armstrong could be selected as one of the finalists.
Milele said, “Since the chief should not have fired to begin with, I am placing on the agenda for the next regular meeting of the commission consideration of whether the commission should recommend to the mayor that the chief be reinstated, or that he be included as one of the finalists in the list of candidates for her to consider for appointment as chief.”
The commission said Judge Rivera’s new report “reaffirms” the same points made by Milele, who publicly disagreed with Thao over booting Armstrong from OPD.
“We were aware at the time that the charges against the chief lacked credibility and said so publicly,” Milele said. “We were disappointed that the Federal Monitor further burned his credibility by signing off on the largely evidence free report used to fire the Chief.”
Darren Allison has been serving as OPD’s interim police chief since February.