Former Oakland police chief LeRonne Armstrong claims report proves unfair firing

ByStephanie Sierra, Dan Noyes, and Suzanne Phan KGO logo
Tuesday, September 19, 2023
Ex-OPD chief claims report proves unfair firing
Former Oakland Chief LeRonne Armstrong discusses the results of an audit of the federal monitor report that led to his termination earlier this year.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- Former Oakland Chief LeRonne Armstrong spoke Monday afternoon about the results an audit of the federal monitor report that led to his termination earlier this year.

"I think today is something that I envisioned happening a long time ago. I've said from the onset of this that I was not guilty of any of these allegations that the facts will come out in this case and when the facts did come out, I felt like I will be vindicated, and today is that vindication," Armstrong said.

The report led Mayor Sheng Thao to terminate Armstrong as Oakland's police chief back in February.

"I did not engage in policy violations. I did not have any issues around credibility in the statements that were made regarding me and that investigation, were unfounded," he added.

Armstrong says he believed the federal monitor report was inaccurate. "It came to inaccurate conclusions. And I think my attorney and I both said that from the beginning. We wished that people would have taken what we said seriously," he said.

"That report concludes the chief should've never been disciplined - recommended that discipline should be reversed and removed from his file and the outside law firm reports were unfounded. The determination that he lacked credibility does no have a factual basis," said Will Edelman, Armstrong's attorney.

According to Edelman, the report found the initial findings from the federal monitor "didn't draw the appropriate conclusions." "The conclusion that he violated any department rules also lacks factual foundation and is simply not accurate," he said.

Armstrong said, "My attorney issued a report directly to the city that contradicted the report. It laid out the foundation for everything that the judge laid out in her report. So everything that the judge reviewed was information that was provided to her by the city, which means that information existed when this case was good was completed, and nobody took the opportunity to actually just be fair. I simply asked for fairness during this process and to not look at all the evidence was considered unfair."

VIDEO: Former Oakland police chief discusses audit of report that led to his termination

Former Oakland Chief LeRonne Armstrong discusses the results of an audit of the federal monitor report that led to his termination earlier this year.

Officials say the new report calls for discussions between the City of Oakland and the chief to consider his reinstatement.

"First I'd like to say, I was wrongly terminated for standing up for the City of Oakland," said former Chief Armstrong in February. "As police chief, I did my job and I think I did it well."

Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong was fired in January by Mayor Thao. "I am no longer confident that Chief Armstrong can do the work needed to achieve the vision," said Thao.

In January, the mayor placed Armstrong on paid leave, when a federal monitor's report questioned the chief's response surrounding the misconduct by one of his sergeants back in 2021. The former chief says he did nothing wrong.

RELATED: Former Oakland Police Chief Armstrong fires back at mayor, federal monitor after termination

"My termination was never really about the facts or my ability to lead the Oakland Police Department - my termination was about Federal Monitor Robert Warshaw and the mayor's failure to fight for the Oakland community," Armstrong said in February.

The Oakland Police Department said two OPD lieutenants, Omar Daza-Quiroz and Joseph Turner, were put on paid leave in January for mishandling the same investigations that led to Chief Armstrong's firing.

"I want to thank the public because the public has been so supportive during this process, no matter where I've been. People have always stood by me and said, they appreciate the work that I've done. I felt like I moved the police department closer to federal compliance than anyone," Armstrong said Monday.

RELATED: Oakland police chief says federal monitor report is inaccurate

Dr. Tyfahra Milele, Chair of the Oakland Police Commission, tweeted in part:

"The decision reaffirms the same points made by Oakland Police Commission Chair Tyfahra Milele, who has publicly disagreed with Mayor Thao over the improper dismissal. "We were aware at the time that the charges against the chief lacked credibility and said so publicly" stated Commission Chair Milele. " We were disappointed that the Federal Monitor further burned his credibility by signing off on the largely evidence free report used to fire the Chief."

Mayor Thao released a statement on Monday regarding the findings, writing:

"At the beginning of this year, I was faced with the difficult decision of how Oakland and our Police Department could ensure our commitment to accountability and reform in light of a troubling report illustrating failures within our disciplinary process.

"I placed then-Chief Armstrong on administrative leave so that I could take careful consideration of the best path forward. During that period, I was troubled by then-Chief Armstrong's many statements indicating that he saw no need for deep reflection or change within the Department.

"It is important that we remember the context; we were in the process of determining whether an officer committed a hit-and-run and failed to report it, and whether OPD failed to rigorously investigate it. Before he had seen the full report, much less the underlying evidence, and while he was still the Chief of Police, Mr. Armstong immediately dismissed the allegations as "mistakes" and not systematic problems, and insisted the officer had already been held accountable.

"That lack of leadership led me to lose confidence in his commitment to reform, and his ability to serve Oakland as a credible messenger and partner to the federal court and federal monitor in finally ending 20 years of oversight.

"My decision was based on Mr. Armstrong's knee-jerk response to the outside investigator's report and the poor judgment it revealed, not on the report itself. And while the law prevents me from publicly discussing the details of the report, neither my Administration nor the federal court agreed with Mr. Armstrong that the findings could be written off as "mistakes."

"Mr. Armstrong had a right under state law to object to his termination and have a neutral hearing officer make non-binding recommendations to the City. While I similarly cannot publicly discuss the hearing officer's findings, since they are personnel records, I will say that there was no recommendation that I reverse my decision to move the department forward under new leadership.

"Oakland needs leaders, including at OPD, who will stand up and make tough decisions in the name of accountability and community trust. By immediately and prematurely standing up for himself personally, Mr. Armstrong failed to stand up for accountability at OPD. His conduct forced me to make one of the most difficult decisions I have ever had to make. I am proud that I, with the support of my administration, faced the decision head on and did what I knew in my heart was right for Oakland, fully understanding the controversy that might follow. I will continue working hard and making tough decisions to improve our police department."

VIDEO: Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong fired, says he's 'deeply disappointed' by mayor's decision

Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao announced the firing of Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong after placing him on administrative leave in January.

In August, Armstrong filed a legal claim of wrongful termination against the city which could open up the possibility for a lawsuit.

But the report recommends it's in the best interest of both parties for the city to settle and again consider possibly rehiring the former chief.

This puts a lot of pressure on the city to respond.

On Monday, Assata Olugbala wears the message she wants everyone to hear: Bring back the former Oakland Police Chief.

"Chief LeRonne Armstrong did nothing wrong," said Olugbala. "What I want to happen is for this man's name to be cleared."

"This decision is one that allows for the Chief to be reinstated. And I hope the Mayor does that," said civil rights attorney John Burris.

VIDEO: Supporters rally around fired Oakland police chief

"Chief LeRonne Armstrong did nothing wrong," said Assata Olugbala, a supporter. "What I want to happen is for this man's name to be cleared."

Many say it's now up to Mayor Sheng Thao to make the next move. And they believe she should reinstate Armstrong.

"The new Chief will have a learning curve. It will take some time. It will make more sense given where we are now for the former chief to come back," said Burris.

Oakland Councilman Noel Gallo says he's been in contact with Armstrong.

"In my communication, he's willing to be reinstated, comeback," said Gallo.

Many community leaders believes Armstrong makes the best choice.

"Chief Armstrong. He knows Oakland. He has many years of experience when it comes to public safety. He was part of the ceasefire -- the gang injunction and dealing with other law enforcement actions that we currently need today," said Gallo.

Bishop Bob Jackson is with Acts Full Gospel Church in Oakland. He believes the mayor made a mistake and she can undo it.

"Everybody makes mistakes. That's why the put erasers on back of pencils. The point of it is, to say she made a mistake and to ask him to come back and maybe even apologize," said Bishop Jackson.

Monday night, the Oakland Police Commission talked about the new police chief search.

They also extended the term of the Interim Police Chief Darren Allison another six months so the search for a permanent chief could wrap up.

At the next commission meeting, they will add a recommendation to reinstate former Chief Armstrong or to include him among the list of finalists.

Meanwhile, Armstrong's attorney has reached out to city officials about being reinstated.

Several people including Councilman Gallo say legal action could be taken against the city of Oakland if the chief is not reinstated.

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