OAKLAND (KRON) — Paul Figueroa said it was a total surprise for him to be appointed the chief of the Oakland police department on Wednesday.
Oakland’s previous interim top cop is out. In a statement released Wednesday afternoon, Mayor Libby Schaaf said she received information that caused “me to lose confidence in Ben Fairow’s leadership.”
Fairow was named interim police chief after former chief Sean Whent abruptly resigned June 9. Whent quit amid an investigation into allegations that several Oakland police officers used Facebook to hook up with an underage call girl, Celeste Guap.
“In the short term, Assistant Chief Paul Figueroa will temporarily serve as Acting Police Chief effective immediately while we identify an Interim Chief and conduct a national search to fill the role of Chief permanently,” Schaaf said on Wednesday.
“I am just focused right now on getting the job done,” Figueroa said.Figueroa said he knows he has a tough road ahead.
Hours after getting the job, he acknowledged the need to get to the bottom of the sex scandal rattling the department. It allegedly involves several Oakland police officers and an underage girl.
“Certainly there is an investigation going on, there’s no getting around that, but that is going to continue in a very robust way,” Figueroa said. “And we are going to make sure we stick to that and get through that–and very quickly. And serve the community in the best way possible.”
“You take 10 steps forward and then you take 3,000 steps backwards, and so we are going backwards,” Councilmember Larry Reid said. “We are not going forward.”
Councilmember Reid told KRON with three chiefs in less than a week, this is a frustrating time for the city.
“The question is how much more embarrassing can it get?” Reid said.
Rebuilding trust with the community and within the department is the focus now for Chief Figueroa.
“I can tell you the next few days are critical for us (in) stabilizing and solidifying just the day-to-day operations for the department and really making sure we continue on,” Figueroa said.
KRON did also speak with former Oakland police chief Howard Jordan on Wednesday. He told KRON it is a tough time to be a former and current OPD member.
He also said the sex scandal is embarrassing for the department, and it is a very, very tenuous time for the city and for the officers.
In the next few days, Chief Figueroa said he will be meeting with all of his staff, and we’ll be hearing more from him in the coming days.