Oakland's new police chief addresses recent attacks on Asian Americans, spike in murders and more

ByLeslie Brinkley KGO logo
Wednesday, February 10, 2021
New OPD chief believes crime surge related to pandemic
It's a difficult moment in time for a new police chief to take the helm in Oakland but new Chief LeRonne Armstrong has stepped in ready to focus on changes ahead. ABC7 New sat down with the new chief to ask some questions one on one.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- It's a difficult moment in time for a new police chief to take the helm in Oakland but new Chief LeRonne Armstrong has stepped in ready to focus on changes ahead.

ABC7 News reporter Leslie Brinkley took advantage of an opportunity to question the new chief one on one.

The commission said you're the man of the moment, the mayor said you were born and bred in Oakland. How is that going to help you as a new chief?

I think it helps me bring credibility to the community. I've spent 22 years invested in the community.

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Have you seen an increase in attacks on the Asian community since the pandemic began?

We are trying to address violence not only in the Asian community but in all communities across Oakland. I believe you can focus on violence and reducing violence yet still practice constitutional policing. While following our own policy, our command staff has to hold our officers accountable.

Do you believe bigotry or racism is a motivating factor in the recent attacks on Asian Americans in Chinatown?

I will say that we know suspects have come to Chinatown to specifically target Asian victims.

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When people call 911 in Oakland it often doesn't get action on the part of the police. How is that going to change?

That is the difficulty when you have a department that's one of the smallest departments for a city of this size in America. We have 732 officers at this time compared to 793 a year ago. So significantly down from what it used to be. But when it comes to calls for service we haven't taken any resources away from our patrol division. Our ability to address violent crime has not been impacted. But other units we used to support our enforcement like traffic are not available to us but I think we are managing.

Are you prioritizing enforcement of sideshows?

It is my hope in this budgetary situation we find ourselves in where funding may not be available that we come up with a different approach, a regional approach would be the most effective way to address our sideshow activity.

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Oakland is experiencing a spike in crime, 15 murders so far this year compared to one at the same time last year. Why do you think that is? Could it be related to the pandemic?

I believe it is related to the pandemic. Going out into the community, mediating conflicts, because of all the requirements related to COVID they are not able to do that as well.

Watch the full interview with Chief Armstrong below.

New Oakland Police Chief Leronne Armstrong inherits a job with a lot of challenges: a surging crime rate, a vastly reduced budget, and a department still trying to reform after a troubled past. In his first interview with ABC7 News since being sworn in, the Bay Area native explains how he plans to tackle those challenges.