In a stunning development Thursday night, the Oakland Police Commission wielded its power to dismiss a sitting police chief. Police commissioners unanimously voted to fire Oakland Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick without cause. Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf concurred with their decision. The dismissal comes three years after Kirkpatrick was hired by Schaaf in January 2017.
“The Police Commission is the community’s voice in our system of checks and balances, and I respect its authority and its role,” Schaaf said in a statement. “Tonight, the commissioners exercised their power. As Mayor, it is my duty to determine when the trust between The Police Commission and the Police Chief has become irrevocably lost and prevents Oakland from moving forward.”
Interim assistant Chief of Police Darren Allison is now interim chief of police.
The pace of police reforms under Kirkpatrick’s leadership were too slow, the citizen-led Police Commission said Thursday night. A loss of trust between Kirkpatrick and the commission was also a determining factor in their decision.
“Since the Commission’s inception, the Commissioners, along with the rest of the citizens of the City of Oakland, observed the Oakland Police Department’s failure to increase compliance with the court-ordered reforms required under the Negotiated Settlement Agreement (NSA),” Oakland Police Commission Chair Regina Jackson said, in a statement Thursday night.
“The Commission’s vote reflects our desire to see the City of Oakland move ahead under new leadership. The Commission looks forward to working with Mayor Schaaf to identify a Chief of Police who will build trust in the community and address racial and gender disparities that continue to exist in the Department and in our City.”
The abrupt move set off confusion at City Hall. Some Oakland councilmembers expressed surprise by the sudden firing. Councilmember Noel Gallo, who represents District 5, told reporters Friday morning that he was unaware of the impending move by the commission and mayor. “It’s no longer City Hall, it’s Silly Hall,” Gallo griped. The Oakland Police Officers Association also disagreed with the firing of Kirkpatrick.
Back in 2016, Oakland residents approved Measure LL, giving the extraordinary power of dismissing a chief of police to the newly-formed Police Commission. Support from five of the seven police commissioners is all that is needed to remove a chief of police with cause. But in the case of Kirkpatrick, who was fired without cause, her dismissal requires the support of the mayor.