Ousted Oakland police chief files claim against city and 'out of control' commissioners

Ousted Oakland Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick filed a claim against the city and the civilian commissioners who fired her, alleging a series of misconduct and legal violations, her publicist and legal team announced on Wednesday.

Kirkpatrick’s attorney, Jamie Slaughter of Keker Van Nest & Peters, said she had "raised alarms" about these issues seven times, but her reports went "largely unheeded" until she was fired in February "in retaliation for blowing the whistle."

“This police commission exceeds their powers, exceeded their authority and regularly tried to interfere with day to day operations of the department, regularly sought information that was protected by law and regularly sought favors and personal benefits for themselves,” Slaughter said. “This police commission is simply out of control and they fired her because she refused to go along with their efforts to exceed their own authority.”

Slaughter also said Kirkpatrick and command staff were subject to intimidation by members of the board.

“If a member of the Oakland Police Department treated a member of the public the way this commission has treated the chief and command staff, that police officer would be reprimanded or fired immediately,” Slaughter said.

Mayor Libby Schaaf, and Oakland Police commissioners Regina Jackson and Henry Gage fired police chief Anne Kirkpatrick. Feb. 20, 2020

Schaaf's spokesman referred comment to the city attorney's office, where no one immediately responded.

Regina Jackson, chair of the commission, initially said she would respond later in the day, but later chose not to comment.

Jackson has previously denied firing Kirkpatrick out of spite or retaliation.

In fact, in past interviews, Jackson said there was no single reason for Kirkpatrick's termination.

But the commissioners, who have been meeting for the last two years, ultimately felt that Kirkpatrick did not represent the progressive police reforms they desired, Jackson said.

The commission is made up of seven citizens and is the most powerful civilian police oversight body in the United States with rare abilities to fire the chief. 

Schaaf had been a steadfast supporter of Kirkpatrick. But the mayor said OK'd the termination because she saw that the trust between the commission and the chief was "irrevocably" lost. 

Ousted Oakland police chief: Firing was retaliation for not giving commissioner 'special treatment'

According to the claim, Schaaf visited Kirkpatrick at her home and told her that the police commission intended to fire her, and suggested that federal monitor Robert Warshaw supported the decision. The mayor asked Kirkpatrick not to return to work.

Warshaw oversees the Oakland Police Department as part of a court-mandated reform effort stemming from the infamous Riders case.

On Feb. 20, the mayor called Kirkpatrick to inform her that she had been fired, according to the claim.

The basis of Kirkpatrick's claims is that commissioners routinely seek access to legally protected Oakland Police Department personnel records, which she said they are not entitled to. And because they are not police officers or have a police background, Kirkpatrick said they don't understand the rules or how far they can go.

"Commissioners corruptly look for special treatment from OPD in their personal affairs.  They frequently abuse OPD staff and interfere in day-to-day operations," her claim states.

FULL INTERVIEW: Fired Oakland police chief talks pain, retaliation

Kirkpatrick's legal team alleges her firing was illegal because it was done in retaliation for her repeated reports of Police Commission misconduct. Kirkpatrick said she is seeking "to be made whole for the damages she has suffered as a result of her illegal firing."

Oakland Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick.

Some of the examples Kirkpatrick listed are:

  • She said she lost her job because she refused to reimburse commissioner Ginale Harris for towing fees. According to an internal, confidential memo from 2018 reviewed by KTVU, the chief told the city that Harris “demanded” that she receive reimbursement for towing fees but the chief “refused to provide any special treatment” to Harris. However, in a previous interview with KTVU, Harris' attorney, Dan Siegel, has refuted that allegation. 
  • Kirpatrick alleges that Harris and Commissioner Jose Dorado tried to "inappropriately" steer resources into their neighborhoods in March 2018 and then retaliated against two "low-level OPD officers." She alleges Harris told the officers she "had a history of having people fired." These officers were neighborhood service coordinators. 
  • Kirkpatrick filed a complaint against Harris for criticizing Alameda County Public Defender Brendon Woods in public for "not living as a black man." Kirkpatrick wrote that she was worried about being retaliated against.

Oakland has 45 days to review the claim. If the city rejects the claim, Kirkpatrick's lawyers said a lawsuit will be filed.

Lisa Fernandez is a reporter for KTVU. Email Lisa at lisa.fernandez@foxtv.com or call her at 510-874-0139. Or follow her on Twitter @ljfernandez