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Interview: Former Oakland Police Chief Armstrong talks about what's next after report from judge

Former Oakland Police Chief Armstrong speaks out what's next after report from judge
Former Oakland Police Chief Armstrong speaks out what's next after report from judge 04:05

Oakland's fired police chief spoke with KPIX about his next move as we are now seeing the full report that's cast doubt over the reasons behind his firing.

Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao fired Chief LeRonne Armstrong in February of this year after an independent report cited a failure of leadership in his handling of two misconduct cases involving the same officer.

But a retired judge tasked with reviewing Armstrong's appeal found, "There is no evidence that the deficits in the investigation were due to a failure of leadership by anyone including Chief Armstrong, or by any lack of commitment to hold members of the OPD accountable."

The judge also calls for the Mayor's initial 30-day suspension of Armstrong to be removed from his record. Mayor Thao fired back saying her decision to fire the Chief wasn't based on the initial report, but rather Armstrong's knee-jerk reaction to it.

This latest report alone can't force Armstrong's reinstatement, but the Police Commission told us, it will consider putting him on the shortlist of candidates to get his old job back.

The big question now is whether the former chief would take it.

KPIX reporter Katie Nielsen, sat down with him on one-on-one to ask him about this latest report.

In the interview, he explained why the incident is deeply personal to him.

"For our community to finally believe in the police department and believe that it was changing, that means something to me, and I didn't want to tarnish that," he said. "I didn't want to tarnish people's trust and confidence in me. I didn't want to tarnish the trust and confidence people had, begin to have in the Oakland Police Department, and I believe that the truth needed to be told.

The confidential report goes into detail about what led up to the February firing of then-Chief LeRonne Armstrong two years into his tenure leading the troubled Oakland Police Department. Mayor Thao said she lost trust in the chief after questioning him about two internal affairs reports, but he said he's not buying it.

"It is exactly what I said from the outset, from the first press conference that I gave. I told the public that this report is inaccurate, the facts of this case are not true there is no evidence that demonstrates that I violated policy," he said.

In fact, at Monday night's Oakland Police Commission Meeting, one of the members even suggested putting Armstrong's name back on the list of people to fill the currently vacant police chief position.

"To ignore former Chief Armstrong as a candidate would be to ignore a significant amount of community voice. To that end, I think we have to reasonably consider his candidacy if he's even interested," said David Jordan, one of the police commission members.

As for whether he is or isn't interested, he had this to say.

"Well, I think everything is on the table at this point. I think ultimately it will be the Mayor's decision as to who she selects for the next Chief of Police," Armstrong told KPIX. "But I thought it was an important gesture to me that they appreciate the work that I did as chief of police and that they felt like I would be a good selection to be Chief again."

Armstrong said he doesn't know what's next for him, but his commitment to his hometown is unwavering.

"I'll continue to serve Oakland in any capacity that I feel like is important, so I won't be going away, whether I'm chief or not. I'll be still present in Oakland as a leader," he said.

Armstrong wants to meet with the city to discuss options moving forward, whether that's reinstatement or some kind of settlement. He said so far his legal team has made an offer to meet with city leaders, but the city hasn't responded.

The Oakland NAACP also called for his reinstatement.

"In our opinion, reinstating Chief Armstrong produces a win-win. We get back our homegrown chief who has proven his ability to reduce crime and we forego the potential for litigation and another multi-million-dollar settlement for yet another wrongly terminated police chief," the NAACP said.

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