'A major mistake': Oakland community advocates rally for fired police chief LeRonne Armstrong

ByLena Howland and Cornell Barnard KGO logo
Friday, February 17, 2023
Oakland community rallies in support of fired police chief Armstrong
EMBED <>More Videos

Oakland community leaders have gathered at the steps of city hall to protest Mayor Sheng Thao's "abrupt" firing of Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- There is new reaction and fallout over the firing Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong.

Advocates and faith leaders rallied outside city hall, in support of former Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong, who was fired without cause Wednesday by Mayor Sheng Thao.

"I am no longer confident that Chief Armstrong can do the work needed to achieve the vision," Thao said Wednesday.

Armstrong's termination comes a month after he was put on administrative leave, following dereliction duty allegations that he failed to properly act on the misconduct by one of his officers.

VIDEO: Oakland community to rally in support of terminated police chief

"Chief Armstrong said these were not incidents where officers behaved poorly. He stated that he did not believe these incidents reflected systemic problems. Instead, Chief Armstrong described the underlying incident as a 'minor vehicle collision.' He said that officers made mistakes. It is clear to me that there are systemic issues and the city needs to address them and that we cannot simply write them off as mistakes," Thao said.

Shortly after the firing, Armstrong released a statement saying that his termination was "fundamentally wrong, unjustified, and unfair."

"After the relevant facts are fully evaluated by weighing evidence, instead of pulling soundbites from strategically leaked, inaccurate reports, it will be clear I was a loyal and effective reformer of the Oakland Police Department," read part of his statement.

On Thursday, community advocates and faith leaders rallied in support of Armstrong. Some called for the new mayor to be recalled.

"Chief Armstrong has been loyal to families. He's been loyal to the community. Today we're saying we're going to be loyal too," said Oakland advocate Brenda Grisham. "The main thing we want done, to clear his name. Nothing in those reports say he was a bad person."

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

Others want Armstrong back on the job.

"We're going to demand Armstrong be reinstated, re-hired and back in his rightful place. Shouldn't public safety be the main concern of Oakland?" said Victory Baptist Church Pastor Marty Peters.

Advocates are now pointing fingers at the Mayor, saying that their voices were ignored in the matter.

"When is the voice of the people going to matter to this mayor not been in office for a few weeks but you've made a major mistake," Peters said.

MORE: New details in Oakland police chief's suspension as commission meeting looms

Armstrong's firing came hours before Oakland Police Commissioners were set to hold a disciplinary meeting on the chief, its chairperson saying in a statement:

"We respect the Mayor's decision to release Chief Armstrong without cause. We are sorry to lose an effective reform-minded chief who led the OPD into compliance in 51 out of 52 tasks of the negotiated settlement agreement."

The OPD has been under federal oversight for two decades.

In a new written statement, Armstrong says: "I continue to believe that my termination was the result of a fundamentally flawed process that resulted in unfair, inaccurate conclusions about me. I am continuing to evaluate my legal options to preserve my rights and my hard-earned reputation."

MORE: Oakland police chief says federal monitor report is inaccurate; calls on mayor to reinstate him

Advocates are looking at their next move when it comes to the mayor.

"We'll have mayor for next four years, maybe?" Grisham said.

As the crowd chants: "recall, recall, recall."

Mayor Thao declined comment on Armstrong Thursday. Another rally in support of Armstrong is scheduled for Monday morning at Oakland City Hall.

MORE: Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong placed on administrative leave for 'dereliction of duty'

Armstrong's full statement can be read below:

"I want to thank the community for its strong showing of support in the wake of the Mayor's decision to terminate me as Chief. It has truly been an honor and privilege to serve this City for more than two decades.

As a native of Oakland, I know how special this city is. It means the world to me that I have earned the trust and respect of so many leaders and members of this community. I appreciate your efforts to champion my cause and I thank you for trying to help the Mayor understand that the best path forward for the City was with me remaining as Chief.

I genuinely appreciate all of the encouraging messages and phone calls I have received. I cannot possibly acknowledge them all individually. But please know I have heard and received your messages of support. I want to specially thank a few people. I'd like to thank Mayor Libby Schaaf and the Oakland Police Commission for trusting me to lead OPD during her tenure. I'd also like to thank the Oakland Chapter of the NAACP, the Oakland spiritual community, the Chinese Chamber of Commerce, the API community and other neighborhood and community leaders who showed up at the rallies for their tremendous and vocal support over the past month. I want to thank all the people who came today to city hall to stand with me, and with Oakland, to make our city, our police force, and our community a better place.

I want to show my special appreciation and admiration for the hardworking women and men of the Oakland Police Department. Thank you for all you do to keep the City of Oakland safe. You truly are the hardest working law enforcement professionals in America.

I have been getting a lot of questions about my next steps. Please know that I continue to believe that my termination was the result of a fundamentally flawed process that resulted in unfair, inaccurate conclusions about me. I am continuing to evaluate my legal options to preserve my rights and my hard-earned reputation."

Now Streaming 24/7 Click Here

If you're on the ABC7 News app, click here to watch live