New Police Chief Comes After Months Of Turmoil In Oakland, Calif. Oakland, Calif., has a new police chief. It follows a difficult period this summer when the city burned through three chiefs in a matter of days.


New Police Chief Comes After Months Of Turmoil In Oakland, Calif.

New Police Chief Comes After Months Of Turmoil In Oakland, Calif.

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Oakland, Calif., has a new police chief. It follows a difficult period this summer when the city burned through three chiefs in a matter of days.


Oakland, Calif., is finally getting a new police chief. The department has been under civilian control since last summer after it went through three chiefs in just over a week. From member station KQED, Alex Emslie reports.

ALEX EMSLIE, BYLINE: In June, the Oakland Police Department saw a flurry of resignations stem from a sexual exploitation case involving about a dozen officers and the teenage daughter of a police dispatcher. The scandal prompted Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf to place the department under the city administrator's control and make this now famous statement.


LIBBY SCHAAF: As the mayor of Oakland, I am here to run a police department, not a frat house.

EMSLIE: The sexual exploitation scandal is just a recent example of the police department's woes. They stretch back at least 14 years, when the department was placed under the watch of a federal judge. The city is still working to satisfy the court's mandated reforms. That's the context in which Mayor Schaaf named Anne Kirkpatrick as Oakland's next police chief.


SCHAAF: Oaklanders wanted a leader with integrity, able to change culture.

EMSLIE: Schaaf called it a toxic macho culture in June. But, she says, the tenacity to change it isn't all the city looked for in its next chief.


SCHAAF: Someone who would deliver on fair and just policing, prevent violence and increase accountability, and of course, most importantly, build community trust.

EMSLIE: Kirkpatrick is the first woman to lead the department, but she says don't make too much of her gender, what Oakland police need is leadership.


CHIEF ANNE KIRKPATRICK: I'm grateful for being a woman, but I will be your leader.

EMSLIE: Kirkpatrick comes most recently from the Chicago Police Department, where she was a bureau chief in charge of reforms, but she's only had that job for about six months. Before that, she was the chief deputy sheriff in King County, Wash., where Seattle is located. Kirkpatrick's most recent chief of police position was in Spokane, Wash., where she led that force for six years. While there, she butted heads with her officers union over misconduct cases. That resulted in lawsuits and a near vote of no confidence among the rank and file. Kirkpatrick says she'd handle that relationship differently today, but she wouldn't back down from holding her officers accountable.


KIRKPATRICK: I cannot and will not be bullied by a vote or lawsuits or whatsoever. I'm going to do my part, and then everybody else has to do their part.

EMSLIE: That stance may very well be what landed Kirkpatrick the job in Oakland. The city was looking for a reformer who can take on and change entrenched culture and engender public trust, but building trust in Oakland may be the toughest job of all.

MYA WHITAKER: The chief will be walking into a no-trust zone right now with our community, and she's very aware and open to the fact that she will need to break barriers.

EMSLIE: Mya Whitaker is a youth advocate who sits on Oakland's Police Department's Citizen Review Board.

WHITAKER: As usual, we're open to it, but we are definitely going to be holding her accountable.

EMSLIE: If Anne Kirkpatrick is successful in her new job beginning in February, that accountability will flow downhill to her command staff and officers. The city's hopeful that she can satisfy the last handful of reforms mandated by the federal court. Those include improving officer discipline, tightening up internal affairs investigations and addressing racial disparities in police stops and arrests. That's all while managing relationships with her officers and their union and chipping away at the city's high violent crime rate. For NPR News, I'm Alex Emslie.


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