Former OPD chief says arbitrator report exonerates him of any wrongdoing after firing

A spokesperson for Armstrong said his attorneys have reached out to city officials about possible reinstatement. He says if that does not occur, they could take legal action against the city

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Former Oakland police Chief LeRonne Armstrong has been exonerated of any wrongdoing that his termination was based upon, according to his spokesperson citing a report.

A state independent arbitrator report discussed by Armstrong and his attorney on Monday is a conclusion of an administrative appeal and calls on the possibility of his reinstatement. The former chief and his attorney said the report questions the accuracy of federal monitor’s claims used in his termination.

"I said from the onset of this that I was not guilty of any of these allegations, that the facts would come out in this case, and when the facts did come out I felt I would be vindicated," Armstrong said in a news briefing Monday. "And today is that vindication."

The Oakland police commission on Monday announced it would consider Armstrong as a shortlist nominee in the search for the city's police chief that will be sent over to the mayor.

Councilman Noel Gallo says Armstrong should’ve never been fired to begin with and hopes he gets his job back.

“What impressed me the most out of all the police chiefs I’ve been through is that he was present, he was out there on the street level walking,” said Councilman Noel Gallo.

Armstrong was fired in February without cause by Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao. In her announcement, Thao cited comments Armstrong allegedly made minimizing misconduct by an officer. Armstrong previously said his firing was retaliatory and wrongful, and later filed an appeal.

For about 20 years, the police department has been under federal oversight caused by police misconduct. Armstrong nearly restored oversight of the Police Department to the city. Under his leadership, Oakland police met or exceeded 51 of 52 reforms necessary to be relieved of federal oversight.

Thao said on the day she fired Armstrong that Federal Monitor Robert Warshaw was "profoundly disappointed in the evidence" brought to light in a report on alleged police misconduct and saw "significant cultural problems in the department."

The evidence included allegations that a police sergeant crashed a police vehicle into a parked vehicle in 2021 and left the scene. The following year, the same officer is alleged to have accidentally discharged his gun in the freight elevator of police headquarters and waited a week to report it.

Former Oakland police Chief LeRonne Armstrong and his lawyer hold a news briefing after he was exonerated of any wrongdoing that his termination was based upon.

Armstrong said Thao, "accepted the monitor's conclusions at face value" and has ignored the community, which the mayor has said she wants to bring together.

Thao released the following statement on Monday:

“At the beginning of this year, I was faced with the difficult decision of how Oakland and our Police Department could ensure our commitment to accountability and reform in light of a troubling report illustrating failures within our disciplinary process. 

“I placed then-Chief Armstrong on administrative leave so that I could take careful consideration of the best path forward. During that period, I was troubled by then-Chief Armstrong’s many statements indicating that he saw no need for deep reflection or change within the Department.

“It is important that we remember the context; we were in the process of determining whether an officer committed a hit-and-run and failed to report it, and whether OPD failed to rigorously investigate it.  Before he had seen the full report, much less the underlying evidence, and while he was still the Chief of Police, Mr. Armstrong immediately dismissed the allegations as “mistakes” and not systematic problems, and insisted the officer had already been held accountable.

“That lack of leadership led me to lose confidence in his commitment to reform, and his ability to serve Oakland as a credible messenger and partner to the federal court and federal monitor in finally ending 20 years of oversight. 

Former Oakland police Chief LeRonne Armstrong has been exonerated of any wrongdoing that his termination was based upon, according to his spokesperson citing a report. Velena Jones reports.

“My decision was based on Mr. Armstrong’s knee-jerk response to the outside investigator’s  report and the poor judgment it revealed, not on the report itself.  And while the law prevents me from publicly discussing the details of the report, neither my Administration nor the federal court agreed with Mr. Armstrong that the findings could be written off as “mistakes.” 

“Mr. Armstrong had a right under state law to object to his termination and have a neutral hearing officer make non-binding recommendations to the City.  While I similarly cannot publicly discuss the hearing officer’s findings, since they are personnel records, I will say that there was no recommendation that I reverse my decision to move the department forward under new leadership. 

“Oakland needs leaders, including at OPD, who will stand up and make tough decisions in the name of accountability and community trust.  By immediately and prematurely standing up for himself personally, Mr. Armstrong failed to stand up for accountability at OPD.  His conduct forced me to make one of the most difficult decisions I have ever had to make.  I am proud that I, with the support of my administration, faced the decision head on and did what I knew in my heart was right for Oakland, fully understanding the controversy that might follow.  I will continue working hard and making tough decisions to improve our police department.”

Oakland police Chief LeRonne Armstrong has been terminated, Mayor Sheng Thao announced Wednesday.
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