OAKLAND (CBS 5) — The police chief for the Oakland Unified School District abruptly announced his retirement Wednesday after coming under fire for allegedly using racial slurs.
Chief Peter Sarna, who is white, had served as the school district’s top cop for the past two years and, ironically, is married to a black woman.
He was suspended by district administrators and placed on paid adminstrative leave on Aug. 4 after a formal complaint was filed and an internal investigation was launched into his conduct.
Sarna was accused by a white sergeant of recently using the so-called ‘N-word’ in a tirade directed at a black officer during a charity golf outing with colleagues on off-duty hours.
However, supporters of Sarna – including a church leader in Oakland’s black community – had repeatedly come to his defense.
“I’ve never known anything racist, or anything that would lead me to believe that he would do that. He’s certainly not that type of guy,” said Bishop Bob Jackson of the Acts Full Gospel Church.
The school district would not comment on their probe, but said Wednesday that the case was closed as a result of Sarna’s decision to retire.
In a letter to the Oakland school board about his retirement, Sarna implied he used the slur by saying that he was “deeply sorry for the pain my actions have caused” and said he would focus on sobriety, recovery and repairing the pain he caused to his family.
“I make no excuses for my behavior and no explanations. There simply is no excuse for the hurtful words I used and no explanation for behavior so at odds with whom I believe myself to be,” he wrote.
School district spokesman Troy Flint said the district’s police department, which has 16 sworn officers and 79 school security officers, would be run by several sergeants while the district searches for a new chief.
Sarna previously worked at the Oakland Police Department for 15 years, rising to the level of lieutenant, where he commanded the Special Operations Group, which sought to clamp down on street-level violence in the city.
Sarna then served as deputy director of the state Department of Justice’s Division of Law Enforcement, overseeing many state investigators and criminalists.
Sarna had developed a close relationship with Gov. Jerry Brown when Brown was mayor of Oakland and Brown appointed him to the state post after he was elected California Attorney General in 2006.
Sarna resigned from the state post in August 2007 after he was involved in a drunken driving-related crash in Walnut Creek.
His lawyer, Alison Berry Wilkinson, said Wednesday that Sarna “is sorry that his alcohol problem has inflicted pain on so many different people.”
(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All rights reserved.)