Alameda police chief announces retirement amid criticism over police handling of Black man 'dancing in the street,' sources say

Stephanie Sierra Image
Thursday, July 23, 2020
Alameda chief to retire amid criticism over Black man handcuffed, sources say
ABC7 News I-Team has just learned that the Alameda Police Chief Paul Rolleri has announced his retirement. This comes after officers handcuffed and pinned a Black man to the ground after reports he was "dancing in the street" back in May.

ALAMEDA, Calif. (KGO) -- Alameda Police Chief Paul Rolleri announced his retirement in a letter sent to the city manager Wednesday, according to multiple sources close to ABC7. Per the letter, the Alameda native will retire by the end of August.

"Being the Chief of Police here has been the honor and opportunity of a lifetime....After 31 years and family and friend discussions, I had made the personal decision to retire back in January," Chief Rolleri wrote in a statement released by the city.

RELATED: Alameda police chief responds after black man handcuffed for 'dancing in the street'

The Chief has been with the department for more than 28 years.

"I think he is an excellent police chief," said Alameda Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft. "This is a difficult time to be a police chief or a police officer anywhere, our department is working hard to right wrongs and move forward."

The announcement comes after recent criticism of Chief Rolleri's response to a viral video posted on Facebook in May.

In the clip, five Alameda police officers were seen handcuffing and pinning a Black man, Mali Watkins, to the ground following reports he was "dancing in the street."

Body camera footage shows the moments when officers walk up to Watkins.

VIDEO: Unarmed black man handcuffed by Alameda police for 'dancing in the street'

Body camera footage released to the ABC7 I-Team shows an unarmed black man handcuffed and pinned to the ground by Alameda Police after reports of him "dancing in the street."

Officer: "You're dancing in the street."

Mali: "So what? I'm dancing in the street."

Officer: "Yes. Hold on a minute. You're not free to go."

The 44-year-old martial artist was later heard saying, "I do this every day... please let me go. I was just dancing."

But, Chief Rolleri told ABC7 the incident has nothing to do with his retirement.

Although, Mayor Ashcraft admitted what happened to Watkins is prompting the city to focus more on addressing racism and police accountability.

"We are forming working groups not directed by the city manager, but these are groups that will be largely our residents of color that want to be part of the solution," she said.

VIDEO: Understanding commonly used terms, ideas related to racism, injustice

What is structural? What is institutional racism? What is systemic racism? We explain the definition and also look into examples that impact people of color including African Americans.