OAKLAND, Calif. (KRON) — Two incidents of misconduct by an Oakland Police Department sergeant are at the center of the city’s decision to place OPD Chief LeRonne Armstrong on administrative leave, KRON4 has confirmed. Armstrong was placed on leave Thursday afternoon.
The sergeant in question is accused of striking a parked car in a San Francisco parking lot with a police-issued vehicle and not reporting the incident to the department. A year later, he fired his gun in an OPD building and again did not report it. He also removed evidence from the scene, picking up the shell casing and tossing it into the San Francisco Bay, according to an extensive report detailing the incidents.
KRON4 obtained the report released by an independent law firm that provides more detail about the incidents and how they were handled.
On March 25, 2021, the sergeant was driving an OPD-issued Chevrolet Tahoe in the parking lot of his San Francisco home. His girlfriend, an OPD officer, was in the car at the time.
The sergeant drove out of his parking space and crashed into the car in the spot next to his, ripping off the other car’s front bumper. According to the report, surveillance video shows the sergeant stopping his car for a few seconds before driving away.
Neither OPD member reported the crash to their supervisors. The City of Oakland learned that it happened on May 25 when it got an insurance claim for the damage caused to the vehicle that was struck.
OPD learned of the incident on July 14, when a lieutenant was given surveillance footage and was asked to identify the driver. The lieutenant told the sergeant to report the collision to the San Francisco Police Department.
OPD’s Internal Affairs Division (IAD) opened a case on the incident on July 28. Its investigator learned that the two officers were dating and that relationship had not been reported to human resources, according to the report. The officer was subordinate to the sergeant.
In separate interviews with the IAD investigator, both the sergeant and the officer said that they were not aware of the collision at the time it happened. Court documents say the sergeant gave statements that were inconsistent with comments he had made earlier.
The investigator released a report of his investigation, which called the credibility of the officer and sergeant into question. He showed the report to his superior, an IAD captain, who told him to change it.
“The investigator stated that he had to obey the ‘direct orders’ of a superior officer and alter the report in a manner that, he believed, minimized the severity of the misconduct and allowed the sergeant to avoid the appropriate consequences for his actions,” court documents said.
On December 23, the investigator presented his report to OPD’s Executive Command Staff at a meeting informally known as the “Chief’s Friday Meeting.”
“The Chief of Police (Armstrong) did not permit extensive discussion of the case and did not request that the video be shown, instead quickly approving the recommended sustained finding and signing the final ROI without reading it,” the lawsuit reads.
Armstrong signed the report without reading it, the court documents said. The sergeant received just counseling and training as discipline for the incident.
KRON On is streaming live news now
The sergeant discharged his service weapon on the night of April 16, 2022, or the morning of April 17 while inside a freight elevator while working a shift at the Police Administration Building, per the report. The discharge left a mark on the elevator wall.
Other OPD employees noticed the mark, and the incident became a subject of “department-wide chatter,” according to the document. An investigation was launched into who fired the weapon.
On April 25, the sergeant confessed to the investigator that he was the one who fired his gun. He also admitted to removing evidence, throwing the shell casing into the San Francisco Bay while driving across the Bay Bridge. He was placed on administrative leave.
The report criticized Chief Armstrong for how he handled the situation surrounding the crash. Investigators accused Armstrong of not holding his subordinates accountable and not “engaging effectively” in the review of the incident.
The report argued that the lack of discipline after the crash allowed the sergeant to commit another act of misconduct, exposing issues that were prevalent throughout the department, which Armstrong led.
“The actions of one officer who twice violated the simple rule to self-report one’s
misconduct launched independent investigations which revealed systemic failures far larger
and more serious than the actions of one police officer,” it said.