The announcement that Chief Howard Jordan is stepping down on medical leave seemed to catch just about everyone by surprise. Jodi Hernandez gets reaction.
Oakland Chief of Police Howard Jordan is stepping down.
The resignation is effective immediately, with Jordan on Wednesday taking the city by surprise, citing a medical condition.
During the embattled chief's short tenure, the department has struggled with a rising crime rate and staff shortages that required it to get help from the California Highway Patrol. Jordan was in charge when a federal judge recently appointed an independent monitor to oversee the department.
The chief told his staff in the form of a letter Wednesday morning. The announcement was also posted on the city's website.
It appeared to catch everyone by surprise. It was made moments before a news conference was scheduled at the police department, where former New York and Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton was expected to announce his long-awaited plan on how his consultant agency was going to fight crime in Oakland.
NBC Bay Area received a copy of the Bratton Group report late Wednesday, which criticizes the top brass at OPD and suggests a complete restructuring of the deparment.
One part of the report reads: "Effectively burglaries are not investigated in the city of Oakland with only one part time investigator assigned to 10,000 burglaries last year."
City officials canceled Bratton's event with just a few minutes notice. It was rescheduled for Thursday.
Jordan did not disclose his medical condition. City officials refused to comment on what it was or how he was feeling.
"I'm personally very saddened and surprised about the chief's announcement," Oakland Mayor Jean Quan said. Quan said she first met Jordan many years ago while serving on Oakland's school board, when he was chief of Oakland Unified School District police. "He had a great career. He came up from the ranks and served the city well." Quan said in an afternoon news conference that she would begin a national search for a new chief.
Jordan has worked on the streets of Oakland for more than two decades, but he was only been chief since February 2012. He was appointed Interim Chief by Oakland Mayor Jean Quan in October 2011 after Anthony Batts resigned. The appointment was made permanent a few months later.
Late last year, under threat from a federal judge that he would put the Oakland police department under a federal receivership, the city put the department under the authority of a compliance director. Bratton was then hired as a policing consultant.
Jordan's resignation comes just a week after compliance director Thomas Frazier released his first report which was highly critical of the OPD command staff. In that report, Frazier said the department's executive leadership fails to act proactively on issues and has permitted members of the organization to believe certain behaviors are tolerated and acceptable. "Executive Leadership must send a clear message to the rank and file that misconduct by one reflects poorly on all," according to Frazier's report.
The 59-page report also said punishment of officers for misconduct was rare.
The report may have been a sign for Jordan, said attorney John Burris, who has been overseeing the brutality lawsuit settlement. "I think the compliance director's view was you need to have a fresh start and (Jordan) resigned voluntarily because he could see the handwriting on the wall,'' Burris said.
City Administrator Deanna Santana declined to comment directly on the possibility that Jordan's abrupt retirement was related to the compliance director's report, calling the announcement, "a personal decision." Quan said, "I take him at his word" that his retirement is related to his medical issues.
Barry Donelan, the head of the police officer's union, said the chief called him this morning to tell him the news. "We certainly here at the association did not always agree with the chief, nor the city leadership, in some of the decisions they've made regarding the police department but today we're mindful of his medical condition and wish him and his family well moving forward," Donelan said.
His departure of Jordan came as a surprise to Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank for police chiefs.
"Being the police chief in Oakland may be one of the toughest jobs in the country," Wexler said.
Assistant Chief Anthony Toribio is now the Acting Chief of Police in Oakland. He said that the department's day to day operations will not change. He said it is as if the chief were on vacation. Toribio said the department is like a family and they will get through this transition.
"Chief Jordan's announcement was unexpected," Toribio said. "The suddenness may cause uncertainty inside and outside the department but there will be no change in the department's mission, progress or focus."
This is how the city announced Jordan's departure:
A Word from Chief Howard A. Jordan
It Has Been a Honor to Serve Oakland
This morning I advised City Administrator Deanna Santana that, effective immediately, I am on medical leave and taking steps toward medical retirement. This decision has been difficult, but necessary. Through my 24 years of wearing an OPD badge and uniform, I have emulated the Department’s core values: Honesty, Respect, and Integrity – values I observed in the men and women who worked with me and for me. I know that the members and civilian staff of the Department will carry on these values to generations to come.
It has been an honor to serve the city of Oakland with you.
Howard A. Jordan
Chief of Police
Oakland Police Department
NBC Bay Area's Jean Elle and Associated press' reporter Terry Collins contributed to this report.