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Oakland PD chief files suit claiming she was ousted for blowing whistle on Police Commission


Megan Cassidy

San Francisco Chronicle

Two months after her ouster, former Oakland Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick on Wednesday officially filed a legal claim against the city she was once sworn to protect, alleging that she was fired in retaliation for blowing the whistle on the department’s Police Commission.

The complaint alleges that commissioners routinely sought access to police personnel records, asked for special treatment in their personal affairs and “frequently abuse OPD staff and interfere in day-to-day operations.”

“Put simply, the Police Commission is out of control,” the complaint states.

The claim, which seeks damages for lost wages and future earnings, is a precursor to an official lawsuit. The city has 45 days to review the documents. If the claims are rejected, a lawsuit will be filed against the city, according to Kirkpatrick’s attorneys.

Oakland officials did not respond to requests for comment.

The lawsuit will be a test for the civilian-run oversight body, which on Feb. 20 voted unanimously to fire Kirkpatrick without cause. The commission received the backing of Mayor Libby Schaaf, who until that point had been among Kirkpatrick’s most vocal advocates.

The filing says Kirkpatrick submitted at least seven reports of the commissioners’ inappropriate and unlawful conduct to the Oakland city attorney’s office, the city administrator and Schaaf.

“The Police Commission and Mayor orchestrated Chief Kirkpatrick’s termination in retaliation for the Chief’s repeated whistleblowing,” the complaint states.

Prior to her firing, Kirkpatrick clashed publicly and privately with Commissioner Ginale Harris on multiple occasions. The former chief said that in September 2018, Harris demanded Oakland police reimburse her for towing fees. Harris also allegedly flashed her commissioner badge and demanded to speak to Kirkpatrick, who declined to intervene.

Last fall, a Police Commission meeting devolved into a heated argument after Harris called a police staffer’s presentation on hiring women of color “disgraceful,” prompting Kirkpatrick to step in and demand an apology.

Harris has denied allegations of wrongdoing, and she has the rest of the commission’s support. Shortly after Kirkpatrick’s firing, Commission Chairwoman Regina Jackson said it was “quite frankly insulting” to suggest the civilian oversight body would unanimously vote to fire a chief over a towing ticket.

Jackson told The Chronicle the decision to fire Kirkpatrick came after the commission determined the chief was withholding information from the oversight authority and losing ground on federally mandated court reforms.

Kirkpatrick’s claim states that she reported both the towing incident and the commission meeting argument to city leadership, as well as allegations that commissioners had bullied or intimidated officers and improperly sought confidential records.

The former chief said she grew increasingly concerned about the potential for retaliation after reporting Harris’ alleged misconduct. Kirkpatrick’s concerns were realized at an Oakland City Council meeting on Jan. 28, when Council member Rebecca Kaplan revealed the existence of a confidential internal investigation into Harris, the claim states.

Kirkpatrick said that while she did not initiate the investigation, a local news report stated that it was the product of “repeated moves by the Chief of Police Anne Kirkpatrick and the City Administrator Sabrina Landreth” against Harris.

In mid-February, Schaaf visited Kirkpatrick at her home and told her the commission intended to fire her, the claim states. The mayor also suggested that the department’s federal monitor, Robert Warshaw, “actively promoted” the decision.

The chief’s firing came as a shock to many city officials, but the decision followed months of closed-door meetings by the seven-member commission. Schaaf, whose approval is required to fire a chief without cause, said she signed off on the commission’s unanimous vote out of respect for the community.

Kirkpatrick, the city’s first female chief, was appointed by Schaaf in January 2017 amid allegations that a group of officers had sexual relations with the teenage daughter of an Oakland dispatcher. The scandal rippled throughout the department, as other officers were accused of helping cover up the misconduct.

Megan Cassidy is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: megan.cassidy@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @meganrcassidy


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