Ex-Oakland PD chief explains what led up to his firing after audit disputes prior accusations

Stephanie Sierra Image
Wednesday, September 20, 2023
Ex-OPD chief on what led up to firing after audit disputes accusations
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Former Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong explains what led up to his wrongful termination and why he was so surprised by it.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- Former Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong explains what led up to his wrongful termination and why he was so surprised by it. This comes one day after a report revealed he was falsely accused of misconduct.

In a one-on-one interview with the I-Team, Armstrong candidly explained he's disappointed it took this long for the truth to come out, but made it clear he's looking to the future.

He says Oakland needs real leadership now more than ever.

"How are you feeling about everything?" ABC7's Stephanie Sierra asked.

"I feel good. I feel vindicated. I feel relief. I feel happy that the public finally is able to see the truth," Armstrong said.

"After everything that's happened, do you want to go back to Oakland?" Sierra asked.

"Well, I love the city of Oakland and I love the Oakland Police Department and the men and women that work at the Oakland Police Department. And so I think everything is on the table, I think. It's not my decision whether I go back or not, but I truly do have a passion for the city of Oakland," he said.

VIDEO: Former Oakland police chief LeRonne Armstrong 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.

Armstrong spent nearly 25 years at the Oakland Police Department.

"I know how hard the men and women of the Oakland Police Department work every day," he told ABC7. "And I believe that the department was moving in the positive direction. So everything is on the table, but I don't make the final decision."

Armstrong says his relationship with Mayor Thao and Federal Monitor Robert Warshaw was positive before all this happened.

"Initially, I thought we had a good relationship. I thought we could work together over a couple of years. You know, to create an policy in the city of Oakland. And so I thought we had a pretty positive relationship," he said regarding Thao.

"I was not expecting that report and the outcome of that report. But prior to that, we had made significant strides towards compliance under Mr. Warshaw. So I felt like there was a good relationship," he said regarding Warshaw.

The former chief says he doesn't believe there was ever really tension between the two.

"I think, obviously, the investigation in the report led to the decision that she made. And unfortunately, we had to go through this entire appeals process in order for the truth to actually come out," he said. "And so my hope is that the report is taken seriously and that it's read and that the judge's recommendations are solid in terms of us sitting down and having a discussion about what are the next steps."

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

Armstrong says he was first notified of his termination by his attorney.

"It was a tough blow to take," he said.

"Did you ever get the sense from the mayor that your job was on the line?" Sierra asked.

"Well, I always knew that this was a very serious investigation and a very serious allegation. So I obviously knew what the consequences could be. But I always felt really confident because I knew that I didn't engage in any misconduct," Armstrong said. "And unfortunately, the termination happened before the truth could."

Armstrong says he hasn't spoke with Mayor Thao yet but his attorneys are working with the city to schedule a meeting with city officials to discuss next steps.

"I think it was really important within the report that it acknowledged that the systemic culture issues didn't exist based on the judge's review. And so I believe that the culture of the organization is strong," Armstrong added. "I believe that the Oakland Police Department is strong."

Warshaw has been the federal monitor overseeing OPD for more than a decade. He also serves as the role of compliance director, which is generally not always the same person, according to the city's police commission.

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

"Do you think he should be fired?" Sierra asked.

"Well, I don't I don't make those decisions. I think that's up to the judge. He works for the court. I simply hope that this report reflects positively for the Oakland Police Department in the fact that the systemic issues that were covered in that report have now, you know, been examined by an outside judge. And she disagrees that there's systemic issues," Armstrong said. "And I think that's a huge reason why the department continues to be under federal oversight. So I hope that's taken seriously."

According to the report reviewed by the I-Team, the judge found there is no evidence of systemic failures within OPD.

"Do you think Robert Warshaw has a conflict of interest with city officials?" Sierra asked.

"No I think that he's given his perspective on where the department is. I think it's important for the city to also have a perspective on where the department is. And I think we have to have those conversations about where we believe the department is," Armstrong said.

The Oakland police commission told the I-Team they're currently vetting the top eight candidates to be the next chief. Three of those names will be sent to the mayor for consideration.

The report recommended the city settle with Armstrong and consider re-hiring him back.

MORE: Activists demand NAACP look into Oakland chapter over accusation of 'lies, fear-mongering'

"Do you believe you will be one of those three names?" Sierra asked.

"I look forward to whatever they forward over to the city," he said.

"If given the opportunity, would you take back the job?"

"Well, I think we follow the process that the judges laid out in the report. It's important that I adhere to what the judges requested, which is a meeting between my team, my legal team in the city. And I think we'll figure out where we go from there."

Mayor Sheng Thao did not respond to the I-Team's request for an interview but provided the following statement after the release of the report Monday.

"By immediately and prematurely standing up for himself personally, Mr. Armstrong failed to stand up for accountability at OPD," Thao wrote. "His conduct forced me to make one of the most difficult decisions I have ever had to make. I am proud that I had the support of my administration faced the decision head on."

"What's your reaction to that?" Sierra asked.

"For the mayor to think that any individual, particularly an African American in America who's falsely accused of something should not stand up for themselves is not realistic to me," Armstrong said. "I think as somebody who born and raised in Oakland that felt a duty to the city to say to the people who trust me that I'm not a person that was engaged in this misconduct."

Take a look at more stories by the ABC7 News I-Team.

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