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Backers of Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong ramp up pressure for reinstatement

Pressure mounts for Oakland mayor to reinstate suspended police chief
Pressure mounts for Oakland mayor to reinstate suspended police chief 02:58

OAKLAND – The public relations battle in Oakland over the forced leave of Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong is heating up. On Tuesday, some family members of homicide victims spoke out, demanding his reinstatement.

"He is what we need! He's the missing piece to the puzzle!" said Brenda Grisham at a press conference. 

Grisham lost her son Christopher in a hail of bullets in 2010. She, and others who have lost family members to gun violence, gathered outside police headquarters to express their support of the chief. 

Armstrong was placed on leave last month pending an investigation into his handling of a police misconduct case.

"We want him to come back to work," said Grisham. "We want him to continue the work that he's doing in his community.  For the families that have lost their children, he has been the number one advocate."

Supporters of suspended Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong rally outside Oakland Police Department headquarters on February 7, 2023. CBS

Speakers at Tuesday's press conference said they have a special—but tragic—bond with Armstrong.  In 1985, Armstrong's older brother was shot and killed in the hallway of Oakland Technical High School as he walked to class.

Marilyn Washington-Harris's son was killed in 2000, and she said she faced a maddening bureaucracy.  But she said much of that changed under Armstrong's watch.

"And just like I continue to fight for the rights of my son," she said," Chief Armstrong is doing the same thing. He's fighting for his rights!"

Armstrong has promised to fight the paid suspension, delivering a confidential letter to Mayor Sheng Thao Tuesday morning, that he says details flaws in the report criticizing him.

"The facts demonstrate that I acted properly, following all policies and procedures. I did nothing wrong," said Armstrong, in a written statement.  "I deserve to be re-instated to protect the public and to protect my well-earned reputation. Thank you for your support."

But it was Thao who made the decision to put Armstrong on leave.

At an appearance in Chinatown on Tuesday, she said she wouldn't discuss the matter directly but that her office was taking the findings in the report "very seriously."

"And so, for right now, I can't say much because it is a personnel issue," said Thao.

The report, which has not yet been made public, did not require Thao to take action. So far, Armstrong and his supporters have been reluctant to blame the mayor for putting him on leave. 

"I can't really figure that one out, because she's a big part of the problem," said Grisham. "She does need to be held accountable because somebody's going to have to clear his name. And since you dragged him through the mud, you might need to help clear his name, as well!"

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