After 7 months and a nationwide search, Mayor Libby Schaaf announced that Anne Kirkpatrick will be the new Chief of Oakland Police Department. (Read coverage from the East Bay Times, San Francisco Chronicle, and East Bay Express.)
“I think it’s the greatest opportunity in American policing today,” Kirkpatrick said at a press conference. (Watch full video of the event on KTVU or East Bay Times.) Kirkpatrick plans to start in late February.
Kirkpatrick is the former chief of Ellensberg, Federal Way and Spokane, Washington, having served as chief for five years or more in each (the average tenure for a chief in a major American city is less than 3 years). She most recently worked for the Chicago Police Department, where she was hired in June to oversee police reform efforts. She will also be OPD’s first female chief, although she downplayed that, observing that the qualities of character needed to make a good chief (e.g., integrity, character, decisiveness, etc) are all gender neutral.
The recruitment process began last summer and involved dozens of input sessions and surveys. Results showed that the community was looking for a candidate with integrity and a strong record of crime reduction, as well a someone who could “lead cultural change.” (Read the full results of Chief of Police Community Survey.)
Kirkpatrick has already promised to be this kind of leader and said she would listen to Oakland’s needs. During the press conference, she emphasized the importance of moving forward and vowed the OPD would continually improve. OPD would learn from recent scandal, she said, and would not “retreat” from NSA compliance.
“Reform is where we have policies, procedures, and we direct behavior. I am more interested in transformation. That’s the change in thinking, that’s the cultural change.”
Among other things, Chief Kirkpatrick stated that early on, she would be meeting with Robert Warshaw, the Court-appointed monitor, to reach agreement on exactly what will constitute compliance with the remaining tasks. Make Oakland Better Now! believes that after years of the monitor’s invoking compliance requirements that are nowhere to be found in the NSA, effectively moving the goal posts, this kind of negotiation will be critical.
Chief Kirkpatrick will be starting on February 27. At her press conference and before, she stated that she will devote much energy to reaching out to all aspects of the community and learning as much as she can about Oakland. She noted that ever since leaving her first police job in Tennessee, she has been an outsider, she has always been successful, and will strive to get Oaklanders to be so happy with her performance that they urgently want her to stay. And as part of her work to reach out, she will be participating in ridealongs with officers throughout the city.
The news of Chief Kirpatrick’s appointment comes less than 24 hours after Mayor Schaaf announced that starting January 9, Venus D. Johnson will become Director of Public Safety, an important position that will lead the effort to “break cycles of violence in Oakland through effective crime prevention coupled with smart and principled policing.”
It’s been a long wait. The new Director of Public Safety and Police Chief come at a crucial time in Oakland’s fight against violent crime. 2016, versus previous years, saw almost no change in violent crime, with murders down just 4%, homicides and injury shooting down only 5%.
The people of Oakland deserve much better. But we are hopeful. Make Oakland Better Now is ready to work, to do everything we can to support Police Chief Kirkpatrick and Director of Public Safety Johnson, two respected and capable leaders. It’s a new year, and the city’s taken a important first step in making our city safer in 2017.