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Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao won't participate in forum for new police chief candidates

New list of candidates for Oakland police chief released by commission
New list of candidates for Oakland police chief released by commission 00:35

The Oakland Police Commission released a new slate of possible candidates for police chief ahead of a planned community forum Thursday, but Mayor Sheng Thao won't be participating.

The Oakland Police Department hasn't had a permanent leader for more than a year now. In December, Mayor Sheng Thao rejected the commission's hand-picked list of finalists that included former chief LeRonne Armstrong -- who Thao fired in February 2023  -- and told the panel to try again. 

The commission had set a March 1 deadline for sending the mayor another round of possible candidates. The new list includes former San Leandro Police Chief Abdul Pridgen, who also served as the chief of the Seaside Police Department in Monterey County. 

Second round of OPD chief candidates
Second round of OPD chief candidates.  KPIX

Other candidates include current Lubbock, Texas Police Department chief Floyd Mitchell, Cincinnati Assistant Police Chief Lisa Davis, and former Former Commissioner of the New York City Department of Correction and chief of the Las Vegas Department of Public Safety Louis Molina, who is currently as Assistant Deputy Mayor for Public Safety in New York City.

Armstrong did not make the cut this time around. Earlier in February, Armstrong filed a wrongful-termination lawsuit against the city and Thao.  

On Thursday evening, the public will get a chance to hear from the current candidates when they participate in a community forum over Zoom.

Thao's office issued a letter to the police commission on Tuesday informing them that she would not be participating in or speaking at the forum.

"I am fully invested in finding exceptional candidates for Oakland. However, a public forum does not help recruit the best candidates. A forum identifying candidates places those individuals at unnecessary risk with their current employers," her office said in the letter. "It may also force Oakland to enter into a premature bidding war with an individual's current employer if they feel strongly about retaining them."   

"Oakland's City Charter does not require a public forum to select the Oakland police chief. Hosting a public forum is detrimental to attracting the best candidates. I will not participate in the forum for these reasons," the letter added.  

The mayor and the Oakland Police Commission have been at odds since she dismissed Armstrong over a year ago. Last fall, Thao said she would declare a state of emergency if the police commission did not provide her with a list of viable candidates. 

Dr. Tyfahra Milele, the Chair of the Oakland Police Commission issued a statement in response, saying the members of the commission "are also deeply disappointed in the mayor's purposeful deflection of the NAACP and community's concerns by casting blame on the Commission for the lack of a police chief, which was brought about by the mayor herself."  

Milele's statement accused Thao of resorting to political theater herself with her threat of declaring a state of emergency over delays in the process of selecting a new police chief.

"The Commission has been publicly updating the community about the hiring timeline, and the timeline is posted on the Commission's website. The timeline clearly states that the Commission anticipates sending a list of finalists to the mayor next month. We are perplexed by the mayor's comments to the press as we also updated the mayor and her office on the hiring timeline last week and her office confirmed receipt," the statement said.     

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