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

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Tuesday, February 14, 2023
New details in OPD chief suspension as commission meeting looms
As the police commission meeting for Chief LeRonne Armstrong's suspension looms, we're learning more about the officer involved in the misconduct case

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- We are now just days away from a Oakland Police Commission meeting where the future of Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong, who is on paid administrative leave, will be discussed.

As we get closer to that meeting, we're learning new information about the investigation into wrongdoing involving the officer involved in a hit-and-run accident. Ultimately a spotlight was put on the chief's handling of that case.

All eyes continue to be on embattled Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong, currently getting a check, but not working after Mayor Sheng Thao put him on leave for "dereliction of duty." This for his handling of misconduct allegations involving one of his officers in 2021.

New documents detail the hit-and-run accident involving Oakland Sgt. Michael Chung. An investigation by a law firm gave background on that accident saying, "The surveillance video also shows that, immediately after the collision, Sgt. Chung stopped the vehicle for four to five seconds."

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Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong says the results of a report investigating his department for misconduct are blatantly inaccurate.

Going on to say that Officer Chung was in the vehicle with another Oakland officer that he was romantically involved with. The previously hidden report says, "Neither Chung nor Officer Brandwood exited the car. Instead, the video shows the vehicle driving away from the scene of the collision."

Sgt. Chung was later interviewed about the incident but said it had happened four to five months earlier and he had no recollection of specifics like seat belt use, volume of the radio, or who was with him according to the documents.

Chief Armstrong's response to that incident and one where Sgt. Chung fired a gun inside OPD headquarters has been questioned.

In a credibility assessment of the chief, "Investigators did not find Chief LeRonne Armstrong to be credible" as he knew of information that hadn't been discussed at a meeting saying,

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"...shows that he had been involved in discussions with other commanders about the facts of the case before the presentation meeting and his own testimony that revealed he was aware of certain specific facts that weren't raised at the December 23, 2021 meeting."

The chief fired back to any and all of those allegations when we spoke with him on Friday.

"That is a clearly inaccurate statement. I made my statement to investigators we have that recorded statement, we also have read those reports and we know that no one in the investigation said they advised me regarding this particular case," said Armstrong.

The purpose of the confidential report is to recommend conclusions about whether the officers being investigated committed misconduct.

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Will Edelman, attorney for Chief LeRonne Armstrong, issued this statement Monday night:

The report's conclusion is crystal clear: the two potential violations that were investigated in regards to Chief Armstrong were found to be "unfounded" and "not sustained."

In other words, the report positively confirms that the chief did his job. This is not surprising, because the report's authors acknowledge that the chief was "walled off" from this investigation relatively early when it was taken over by outside investigators. It was not his case to manage, and the report appropriately confirms he could not have mishandled an investigation he was not responsible for.

The chief's role in the investigation was extremely limited, but for unclear reasons the report's authors spend a lot of effort attacking his credibility even after concluding he committed no misconduct. Indeed, the report generally offers a few sentences or a paragraph about each witness's credibility, but inexplicably it devotes a full page to the discussion of the chief's credibility.

The report's theory about the chief's "credibility" is inherently self-contradictory. The authors criticize the chief for "minimizing" his knowledge of the investigation - but that's exactly what he was ordered to do when he was "walled off."

It is important to note that on page 52 of the confidential report, the recommended findings "As to Chief LeRonne Armstrong" lists three sections. Commanding Officers-Authority/Responsibility; Performance of Duty-General; and Reporting Violations of Laws, Ordinances, Rules or Orders. The investigators found sustained arguments on Commanding Officers and Performance of Duty. Reporting Violations of Laws, Ordinances, Rules or Orders was removed.

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