Fired OPD chief claims new report vindicates his actions

Former Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong claims that a new report from an administrative hearing officer exonerates him of wrongdoing after he was fired by Mayor Sheng Thao in February.

Armstrong and his attorney claimed Monday that the 55-page report concluded that the former chief should not have faced disciplinary action following an independent audit commissioned by the federal monitor who oversees the police department. 

KTVU has obtained a copy of that report. 

"As I said from the onset of this, that I was not guilty of any of these allegations, that the facts would come out in this case," Armstrong said at a news conference. "And when the facts did come out, I felt like I would be vindicated. And today is that vindication."

Armstrong was terminated following a probe by Clarence & Dyer LLP, which criticized his handling of two misconduct investigations involving one of his sergeants. This investigation was conducted at the request of federal monitor Robert Warshaw.

Armstrong and his lawyer also contend that the new report, which has not been released to the public, found no violations of department policies by Armstrong and no factual basis for deeming him to be "not credible" when discussing his knowledge of the sergeant's actions and the internal investigation into him.

Ultimately, the administrative hearing officer recommends that the city convene to discuss the next steps, including Armstrong's potential reinstatement.

The administrative hearing officer works for ADR Services, a dispute resolution firm, that helps facilitate the administrative hearing process of officers. 

This report originates from an administrative appeal initiated by Armstrong in August.


Mayor fires Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong

In a bold move a month into her tenure, Oakland's mayor on Wednesday decided to fire Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong, who has been under fire for how he handled two misconduct investigations into one of his sergeants.

Armstrong's attorney Will Edelman clarified that the former chief has not initiated a civil lawsuit seeking monetary damages against the city and is instead pursuing a resolution.

The Clarence Dyer auditor's report from earlier this year pointed fingers at Armstrong, saying he violated department rules because he failed to hold officers accountable and allowed them to escape discipline.

Armstrong vehemently denied these findings and publicly criticized Warshaw.

Also on Monday, Mayor Sheng Thao defended her decision to terminate the former police chief.

"My decision was based on Mr. Armstrong’s knee-jerk response to the outside investigator’s report and the poor judgment it revealed, not on the report itself," she said. Later adding, "By immediately and prematurely standing up for himself personally, Mr Armstrong failed to stand up for accountability at OPD. His conduct forced me to make one of the most difficult decisions I have ever had to make."

Regarding Armstrong's potential return to the vacant position of Oakland's top law enforcement officer, he said, "everything is on the table."

Armstrong's lawyers have reached out to the city to discuss how to move forward.

Oakland's Police Commission on Monday issued a statement that in part read, "The decision reaffirms the same points made by Oakland Police Commission Chair Tyfahra Milele, who has publicly disagreed with Mayor Thao over the improper dismissal."

In addition, Milele is setting an agenda item for the commission's next regularly-scheduled meeting to consider recommending to Thao that Armstrong either be reinstated or placed on a potential shortlist as one of the finalists to be considered for appointment as the next chief of police. 

At Monday night's special Police Commission meeting, some people in the audience wanted to talk about the firing of the former police chief. 

"I'm here to say that the chief doesn't deserve to be returned," said Oakland resident Saleem Bey. 

"To ignore former Chief Armstrong as a candidate would be to ignore a significant amount of community voice. Therefore, we have to balance that with what we understand is a very sort of polarizing and dynamic situation," said Oakland Police Commission Vice Chair David Jordan. 

Some Oaklanders said not having a police chief has hurt the city. 

"Crime has gone up. You don't feel like people care," said Assata Olugbala, an Oakland resident and supporter of Armstrong. 

Former Oakland Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick was fired in 2020. 

But she filed a whistleblower claim against the city, alleging she was fired for calling out unethical behavior by the civilian commission that oversees the police department. She eventually received a $1.5 million payment.

A police commissioner told KTVU the goal is to have a list of police chief candidates to give to the mayor sometime in November. 

Oakland could name the next chief by the end of the year.