OAKLAND – Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong,, said Monday he deserves to be reinstated immediately and blamed a federal monitor overseeing police for his current predicament.
Armstrong released a statement saying he was placed on leave because of "self-interest" by the federal monitor Robert Warshaw.
The Oakland Police Department has been under federal oversight for about 20 years.
"I want the public to know I followed all policies, protocols and procedures in the two incidents that are detailed in the recently-released summary report," Armstrong said.
That report alleged, among other things, two infractions by a sergeant. The sergeant's first infraction, according to the report, was allegedly leaving the scene of a March 2021 collision that he was involved in and failing to report the collision. The sergeant was driving a police vehicle when the collision occurred.
The second infraction was the alleged accidental firing of a gun in April 2022 in the freight elevator of police headquarters and waiting a week to report that. The sergeant also allegedly removed evidence of the discharge.
"But neither the department—nor myself as Chief—ever had the opportunity to take full and appropriate disciplinary action against the officer because the Federal monitor Robert Warshaw took the investigation out of my hands so that he could handle it himself," Armstrong added.
Warshaw "did not act appropriately or honestly," Armstrong said. "Mr. Warshaw acted in the interest of his own pocketbook by manufacturing a false crisis to justify extending his lucrative monitoring contract."
At a press conference Monday, Armstrong spoke publicly about being placed on leave for the first time.
"I know that I did nothing wrong," he said. "And for me to have to fight to remain Chief of Police is unfair. It's unfair to me, it's unfair to the citizens of Oakland."
Armstrong maintained he handled the collision case appropriately with the information he was presented, and that the gun discharge case was taken from him by Warshaw before it could be investigated.
"These officers are human beings and they're going to make mistakes. And I think I have a proven track record of holding people accountable," said Armstrong. "This department has changed. This department is not engaged in misconduct. And this department does have the ability to investigate itself."
Armstrong has strong support in the community, including Councilmember Noel Gallo, who made an appearance at the press conference.
Gallo said the federal oversight, which was supposed to last five years, has dragged on for two decades at a cost of about a million dollars per year. It was finally supposed to end this spring. Gallo believes Warshaw is looking for things to criticize to keep his job going.
"You have Warshaw, who shows up once a month, creates a report to stay employed and Oakland continues to pay that heavy price," said Gallo. "And here he comes at the very end, saying, 'Now we got these other cases that need to be resolved.' So, guess what? So he can stay another year longer."
But Cat Brooks -- co-founder of the Anti Police-Terror Project and an outspoken critic of the department -- said if Armstrong is interested in accountability, he should be willing to take the leave while the matter is being investigated.
"There has been coverup after coverup after corruption after scandal. This is not a reformed police department," she said. "I don't think it's a smear campaign. I think the police department is being held accountable and law enforcement doesn't like to be held accountable. And they certainly don't like the power to investigate themselves being taken away. So, to me, that's what the bluster is about."
Warshaw could not be immediately reached for comment, and Thao's office did not respond by late Monday morning to a response to Armstrong's request for immediate reinstatement.
John Ramos contributed to this report.
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