Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said today that she chose to hire 34-year law enforcement veteran Anne Kirkpatrick to be her city’s new permanent police chief because she’s “the reform-minded leader Oakland is looking for.”
Speaking at a packed news conference at City Hall, Schaaf said Kirkpatrick has the qualities that Oakland residents said they were looking for during the mayor’s six-month search for a new chief: “A leader with integrity and the ability to lead culture change that will prevent violence, increase accountability and build community trust.”
The Oakland Police Department still hasn’t fully complied with the terms of the 2003 settlement of a misconduct case and was rocked last year by a sexual misconduct scandal involving the teenage daughter of a police dispatcher that has led to criminal charges against officers from Oakland and other agencies.
Schaaf said Kirkpatrick “will be unafraid to hold officers accountable for unacceptable conduct” and “will hit the ground running” when she begins her duties in Oakland on Feb. 27.
Kirkpatrick, who was born in Memphis and still speaks with a southern accent, said she knows that the Oakland Police Department has problems and has been without a permanent chief since Sean Whent suddenly resigned under pressure in June.
However, she said, “I don’t consider it to be a mess. This is an opportunity going forward.”
Kirkpatrick has headed the Chicago Police Department’s reform efforts in its Bureau of Professional Standards for the past six months and previously served as undersheriff in King County in the Seattle area and as police chief in Spokane, Washington.
She also served as chief in Federal Way, Washington, a Seattle suburb, and Ellensburg, Washington, and began her career as a police officer in Memphis in 1982.
There’s been a high turnover rate in the Oakland police chief position for many years but Kirkpatrick said she hopes she can last in the post for many years.
Kirkpatrick said the average tenure of police chiefs nationally is only three years or less, but said she has lasted at lease five years in all of her jobs as chief and left those posts only when other opportunities came up.
“People seemed to want me to stay” in the other chief jobs, she said.
Schaaf said she apologizes to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel for recruiting Kirkpatrick after she’d only been in Chicago a short time.
“We fought hard to get her to consider Oakland but she’s had a long interest in Oakland,” Schaaf said.
Oakland City Councilman Larry Reid said after the news conference that Kirkpatrick applied to be Oakland’s police chief in 2014 and was the city’s second choice when Whent, who’d been interim chief for a year, was named permanent chief on May 14, 2014.
“She knows a lot about the city because this is a city where she has always wanted to come. She’s prepared and has done her homework on the city,” Reid said.
Oakland civil rights lawyer John Burris, who filed the police misconduct suit that led to the 2003 settlement that mandated a series of reforms, said he’s talked to Kirkpatrick and thinks she has “a lot of integrity and understands my concerns” about the Police Department.
But Burris said the one thing he’s concerned about is that “she doesn’t have a lot of experience in making reforms” and he thinks it might have been better if Schaaf had selected someone who had more experience in that area.
Burris said Kirkpatrick’s biggest challenge will be to change the Police Department’s culture but said, “I think she can do it.”
Kirkpatrick said she plans to live in Oakland but joked that housing prices have become so expensive that she might have to rent an apartment instead of buying a house.
“I need to save up some money, so I may rent until I can afford to buy,” she said.
Barry Donelan, the president of the Oakland Police Officers’ Association, said in a statement, “We are glad that the uncertainty surrounding the position of Oakland chief of police is finally settled.”