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Oaklanders hear from 4 police chief finalists at Thursday night forum

Oakland residents hear from police chief candidates at Thursday forum
Oakland residents hear from police chief candidates at Thursday forum 02:45

OAKLAND -- On Thursday night, Oakland residents got to meet the four finalists vying to be the city's top cop.

The four finalists were selected by the police commission and, while they spoke to Oaklanders, the person who will ultimately make the hire boycotted the meeting.

Merlin Edwards lost count of how many times he's been inside the Oakland city hall chamber. A resident of The Town for more than  66 years, he's looking for just one thing in the next chief of police.

"If you're going to bring a new police chief in, are they as good as or better than what you had?" Edwards asked. "And if they're not as good as or better than what you had then these are not the people that you want."

RELATED: Oakland residents urge action on crime before forum featuring police chief candidates

Edwards is a supporter of former chief LeRonne Armstrong who was let go about a year ago. He says the city has been without a chief for far too long and appreciates the police commission's transparency around the introduction to the public of the top candidates.

"Citizens of the city should have the opportunity to know who they are, where they came from," Edwards said. "What are their qualifications? What can they do to improve the conditions we have in the city. The question becomes 'can they do something about it?'"

Mayor Sheng Thao disagrees. In a letter to the police commission, she wrote that the public process narrows the field of potential candidates who are not willing to go through a public hiring process and puts the candidates in an awkward position with their current employers.

Police Commissioner Marsha Peterson defended the commission's decision to hold a public forum.

"As Oaklanders, we deeply value integrity, transparency and the power of community engagement," Peterson said.

Three of the candidates are from out of state: New York, Cincinnati and Texas. The only local, former San Leandro chief of police, is on the commission's short list for the second time.

Candidates for Oakland Police Chief

All of the candidates emphasized creating partnerships with the community to combat crime.

"For the city of Oakland, they're just not the right fit for Oakland," Edwards said. "As a matter of fact, one of them was rejected before so why bring him up again?"

The police commission says it will forward its recommendations from the four finalists to the mayor Friday morning.

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