Jury finds ousted Oakland Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick was wrongfully terminated

In an act of vindication for former Oakland Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick, a federal jury found that she was wrongfully terminated.

Thursday's decision does not mean Kirkpatrick will get her job back, however, the panel did award her $337,675 in damages – the amount of what her severance would have been. 

The verdict was first reported by Courthouse News.

"Chief Kirkpatrick has been vindicated," said Kirkpatrick's lawyer, Jamie Slaughter. "A federal jury found that she was wrongfully terminated for blowing the whistle on misconduct."

In Kirkpatrick's suit, she alleged that she was fired in retaliation for accusing some Oakland Police Commissioners of abusing their power and authority. 

The former police head alleged that she exposed illegal demands that commissioners made of the police department for personal gain, a commissioner making derogatory remarks publicly toward a Black public defender and the commission directing police staff inappropriately.

Kirkpatrick also accused commissioners of publicly berating and bullying police staff at hearings. 

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf testified that she agreed to fire Kirkpatrick because the community lost trust after the deadly officer-involved shooting of Joshua Pawlik in West Oakland in 2018. 

The jury had to answer to two questions: whether the city of Oakland unlawfully terminated Kirkpatrick for disclosing to the city conduct she had reasonable cause to believe is unlawful, and whether the city violated her free speech rights by terminating her in retaliation for making reports on a matter of public concern.

The jury answered "yes" to the first, and "no" to the second, Courthouse News reported.

"We thought she was speaking in her capacity as chief," Juror Madison Jewel told Courthouse News. She added, "We thought there was evidence that retaliation played some role in her discharge, which was why we found it was unlawful."