OAKLAND, Calif. (KRON) — Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong said he deserves to be reinstated “immediately” by the City of Oakland after he was placed on administrative leave.
On Monday, Armstrong answered a flurry of questions from reporters to defend his credibility. The city’s top cop accused a federal oversight monitor of making false allegations against the Oakland Police Department.
Armstrong and his attorney, Will Edelman, blasted Federal Monitor Robert Warshaw for allegedly creating a fake scandal as a last-ditch attempt to extend federal oversight over the OPD.
“This is not a scandal. This to me, clearly, is a last-ditch effort to destroy the credibility of me, destroy the credibility of this department, and to make the community believe that, again, OPD is involved in some shady business,” Armstrong told reporters.
Armstrong was placed on administrative leave Friday by Mayor Sheng Thao after the release of a bombshell report detailing officer misconduct. Although the police chief wasn’t directly implicated in key events detailed in the report, his handling of the matters in question and the overall level of accountability within the department has been called into question following the report’s release.
The Oakland Police Department has been subject to court-appointed federal oversight for the past two decades. The Federal Monitor’s scathing report was released at a time when the OPD is within just months of federal oversight coming to an end.
Edelman told reporters, “The Federal Monitor in this case has a very clear self interest for doing what he’s done: Creating a crisis which would, if he’s successful, extend the monitorship in a contract where he earns quite a bit of money.”
“I believe that I am in this position because the Federal Monitor acted in his own clear self-interest,” Armstrong said. “I should be the chief of police. I should be reinstated immediately in the interests of justice.”
“I was born and raised in Oakland. Everybody that knows me knows I am passionate about Oakland. The idea that somebody would take this opportunity, to try to ruin the long history that I have in the city, is really offensive. It’s not only offensive to me, it’s offensive to Oakland,” Armstrong said.
The police chief responded to incidents detailed in the misconduct summary report.
He wrote, “In the first incident, where an officer hit and damaged a parked vehicle in a garage, we took action against that officer and disciplined him. In the second incident—in which the same officer discharged his weapon in an elevator—OPD had begun an investigation following every policy and procedure. We had begun both administrative and criminal investigations when the officer admitted to us that he was responsible for discharging the firearm.”
Armstrong said he placed the officer on administrative leave one day after his admission. The chief said he was unable to take full disciplinary action against the officer due to interference from a federal monitor who took the investigation out of his hands.
“The ability to discipline that officer and engage in due process was never afforded to me or OPD,” Armstrong said.
Armstrong said he wants to reassure Oakland residents that their police department does not have systemic problems surrounding misconduct by officers.
“The officers in the Oakland Police Department, whom I am extremely proud of, have been working hard. It doesn’t mean that we’re not going to have misconduct. It doesn’t mean that every officer is going to be perfect every day. But we have processes in place to hold those officers accountable. These officers are human beings, people are going to make mistakes,” Armstrong said.
A petition posted to change.org asking for Armstrong to be reinstated has garnered nearly 600 signatures as of Monday afternoon.
Q&A with reporters at Monday’s news conference
Question: “Chief, if you didn’t do anything wrong, what are we doing here?”
Answer: “I’ve wondered that for the last several days. Why are we here? There are ulterior motives as to why we are here. The officers in the Oakland Police Department, whom I am extremely proud of, have been working hard. It doesn’t mean that we’re not going to have misconduct. It doesn’t mean that every officer is going to be perfect every day. But we have processes in place to hold those officers accountable. We are talking about a minor vehicle collision. We are not talking about a scandal. This is not a scandal.”
Question: Tell us about the Monitor’s alleged financial self interest.
Answer: “Clearly there is a motivation here. Clearly if the judge were to accept this report as it is written, it could potentially lead to an extension of our NSA (negotiation settlement agreement) oversight. That is problematic for the City of Oakland, the residents of Oakland, and it doesn’t really highlight the work that has been done over the past two years to get us to the point of finally being out of the NSA. This to me, clearly, is a last-ditch effort to destroy the credibility of me, destroy the credibility of this department, and to make the community believe that again OPD is involved in some shady business, and that’s not what this is.”
Question: “You talked about the motivation of the Federal Monitor. But it was the mayor who placed you on administrative leave. What was her motivation here?”
Answer: “I don’t think that the mayor has motivation. The Monitor clearly communicated with the mayor what he would like to be done. I think the mayor followed the Monitor’s recommendation. It’s hard (for) a mayor who has just been in the seat a couple of weeks would truly be able to push back against the Monitor at this point. For those that have been around here, and have seen many chiefs fall, the common theme when those chiefs fall is it comes on the Monitor’s recommendation. I don’t blame her for these actions. I understand the position she was put in.”
Officer investigated for misconduct
KRON4 obtained a copy of the bombshell report after it was released by an independent law firm. The officer in question is an OPD sergeant.
The sergeant was driving an OPD-issued Chevrolet Tahoe in a San Francisco parking garage when he crashed into a parked car, the report states. His girlfriend, an OPD officer, was also in the Chevy at the time. According to the report, surveillance video showed the sergeant stopping his car for a few seconds before driving away.
A year later, the same sergeant fired his gun inside an OPD building and removed evidence from the scene, picking up the shell casing and tossing it into the San Francisco Bay, according to the report.
The sergeant failed to self-report the crash and shooting, as well as failed to disclose his romantic relationship with a subordinate. When he was questioned by OPD’s Internal Affairs Division investigators about what happened, the sergeant gave “inconsistent statements,” according to the report.