Former Oakland police chief Armstrong weighs options as supporters protest firing


Supporters of former Oakland police chief Armstrong protest firing

Supporters of former Oakland police chief Armstrong protest firing 03:17

OAKLAND — Fired former Oakland police chief LeRonne Armstrong on Thursday said he is weighing his legal options after being dismissed from his job by Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao.

The mayor announced Armstrong’s firing at a Wednesday afternoon press conference. Thao referenced a recent report detailing Armstrong’s actions following a hit-and-run collision involving a police sergeant and the alleged obstruction of the investigation. That report that led to his suspension on January 19. The report concluded that Armstrong had signed off on the findings without reviewing them or even fully discussing the incident, an account Armstrong disputes.

“Within days of being notified of that the city needed time to carefully review the findings and the evidence in these very serious cases, Chief Armstrong made a number of statements that troubled me. In response to a public report that concluded that OPD had repeatedly failed to rigorously investigate misconduct and hold officers accountable, Chief Armstrong said these were not incidents where officers behaved poorly. He stated that he did not believe these incidents reflected system problems. Chief Armstrong described the underlying incident as a ‘minor vehicle collision.’ He said, ‘officers make mistakes.'”


In the statement he released Thursday, Armstrong thanked the community of Oakland for supporting him from when he was placed on administrative leave in January through to Sheng’s decision to terminate his employment on Wednesday. Armstrong also thanked “the Oakland Chapter of the NAACP, the Oakland spiritual community, the Chinese Chamber of Commerce, the API community and other neighborhood and community leaders who showed up at the rallies for their tremendous and vocal support.”

He additionally thanked the men and women of the Oakland Police Department, praising them as “the hardest working law enforcement professionals in America.”

Thursday afternoon, dozens of supporters rallied behind Armstrong outside Oakland City Hall. They described him as a man who deeply cared for his community and lived up to his promises. Now they’re worried about public safety. Some were pushing for a recall of Thao, who just started her first term as Oakland’s mayor after a contested election in November.

Oakland resident and small business owner Robert Walker was among those at the rally. He has known Armstrong for decades and has a special connection with the former chief. The bullet intended for Srmstrong’s older brother also hit him. The two used to walk “little LeRonne” as he called him to school. 

“Most of us voted for you Sheng Thao. Even me. I guess I was wrong,” said Walker. “I’ve known this man since 1984. His brother died in my arms [at] Oakland Tech High School. We were both shot in the hallway on our way to 3rd period.” 

Walker showed KPIX a photo of Armstrong with his granddaughter that was taken the day Armstrong became chief. 

“Being a police was LeRonne Armstrong’s dream,” explained Walker. “There’s a dark cloud over the city of Aakland right now.”

Oakland comedian Jerry Law said Armstrong may have been the best chance the city had to change the narrative around police and Black people.

“The move right there set us back 20 steps,” Law said of Armstrong’s firing.

Armstrong is an Oakland native. He started with the Police Department as an officer in 1999 and took over as chief in February 2021.

“He has the heart of a people’s person” and not the heart of a police officer, said Pastor Fabian Robinson of Redemption Baptist Church in Oakland. 

Robinson thinks Armstrong deserves his job back. 

“When is the citizen’s voice going to matter to this mayor?” said Pastor Marty Peters of Victory Baptist Church in Oakland.

Several members of Oakland’s Asian-American community were also on hand to stand behind Armstrong. Many small business owners said he stepped up and added officers to the Chinatown area amid a wave of robberies and brutal attacks during the pandemic. 

Armstrong closed his latest statement with an indication of what his next steps might be.

“Please know that I continue to believe that my termination was the result of a fundamentally flawed process that resulted in unfair, inaccurate conclusions about me,” Armstrong’s statement read. “I am continuing to evaluate my legal options to preserve my rights and my hard-earned reputation.”

If Armstrong takes legal action, he wouldn’t be the first former Oakland police chief to do so. Chief Anne Kirkpatrick filed a suit in 2020 claiming she was fired in retaliation for blowing the whistle on alleged misconduct within the city’s police commission.

Last year, a verdict in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California awarded Kirkpatrick $337,635 in damages, an amount equal to one year of her salary.

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