Oakland police chief will resign

January 27, 2009 11:55:26 PM PST
Oakland Police Chief Wayne Tucker announced his resignation Tuesday morning. His decision to step down after four years on the job comes as the department is plagued by scandal.

"We need a new police chief in place who can get up to speed very quickly," Oakland attorney John Burris said. Burris wants Tucker's replacement on the job fast, and he does not want the new chief to come from the current police department command staff.

Burris and attorney Jim Chanin represented the plaintiffs in the Riders scandal, when three officers were acquitted of framing and beating drug suspects then falsifying reports. The city paid a $10.5 million settlement in that case.

"There's a real question in my mind as to whether the Oakland Police Department is capable of governing itself," Chanin said.

Tucker announced his resignation just hours before members of the city council planned to call for a no-confidence vote in him.

But before they could, he blamed the council and their budget cuts on his department, for his decision to step down.

"I think they have given lip service in their commitment to public safety in this city," Tucker said.

Tucker's resignation comes as the department has been rocked by scandals - nine officers and two sergeants stand accused of lying to obtain search warrants and will soon be fired and there is a federal investigation into the head of the department's internal affairs unit, who is accused of kicking a drug suspect who later died and then ordering officers to lie about it.

Tucker admitted mistakes in the department's investigation of journalist Chauncey Bailey's murder, but that did not stop Mayor Ron Dellums from praising Tucker as a reformer.

"Chief Tucker has been an instrument of change moving forward," Dellums said.

Council President Jane Brunner, a tucker opponent, said Dellums needs to name a replacement soon.

"He better feel the role quickly and we'll all just be pushing for that to happen," Brunner said.

"I think the department was becoming dysfunctional, the morale was very low," said Pat Kernighan, an Oakland City Council member.

Kernighan says she would like to see Tucker replaced by an outsider who understands community policing, and can raise the departments' morale.

"People running away trying to hold up these baggy pants and they're putting their hands in their pants could be one of the factors, and one of the predicate events that lead us to think that we're in danger," said Chief Tucker.

Dereca Blackmon is co-founder of the Coalition Against Police Executions -- a group lobbying for more police training.

"It's the responsibility of the Police Department to understand the community they are policing and if you can't tell the difference between a person reaching for a gun and a person pulling up their pants, then perhaps you need more training as a police officer," says Blackmon.

The city has an interim fire chief, an interim city administrator, and now it's up to the mayor to name an interim police chief. Tucker's last day will be February 28th.