Oakland Names Its Third Police Chief In The Last 48 Hours

OAKLAND//POLICE SHAKE-UP | Oakland Police Howard Jordan is out. Acting Chief Anthony Toribio is now a captain. So, who’s next? On Friday, Sean Whent became Oakland’s third police chief in just over the last 48 hours.

The dizzying turn of events leaves in its wake a major shakeup at the beleaguered and short-staff department more wide-ranging than just a change at the top.

Interim Oakland Police Chief
Sean Whent.

Whent, a 17-year veteran of the force, is a former chief of the department’s risk management team. He also worked closely with auditing reforms in the Negotiated Settlement Agreement (NSA) at the heart of the current instability at OPD due to its reluctance to conform with the court-ordered reforms that followed the 2003 Riders police corruption case.

When asked by a reporter at a press conference this morning in Oakland if Whent is ready to be chief, he replied, “absolutely.” He added having no thoughts yet on whether he will pursue the job permanently.

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan said her administration will quickly look to fill the position through a national search, but did not exclude potential candidates in Northern California.

Despite nagging question over whether the changes this week that began with Jordan’s abrupt medical retirement last Wednesday morning was made the by recently appointed compliance officer Thomas Frazier, Quan dodged the question Friday as she did two days prior.

“We own the decision to appoint Sean Whent,” Quan said, also acknowledging Oakland City Administrator Deanna Santana in the decision-making process. Although, Quan was non-committal on whether the moves today were Frazier’s call,  she stated a belief hiring power in the NSA rests with the city. However, she acknowledged any person chosen would have to be able to work with the compliance officer and federal monitor.

Toribio, who was seemingly thrust into the limelight two days ago, said Friday, he voluntarily stepped down to become captain under Whent. “It was a personal decision,” Toribio said. “It was as simple as that.” In early comments Friday, Santana was blunter, saying, Toribio “did not want to be chief.”

The changes at the top come at a time when federal officials are applying intense pressure on the department to implement reforms, in addition, to independent consultants like William Bratton calling for changes to how OPD conducts its business.

Quan expressed confidence the new group of leaders at OPD are already steeped in the proposed changes in policing advocated by Bratton and will quickly succeed. While noting OPD’s had a “weak bench,” Quan declared, “This is a better group than we had a year ago.”

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