OAKLAND (KCBS / KPIX 5) – In a letter to officers, Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan announced on Wednesday that he is stepping down for health reasons.
Jordan did not specify his condition in a statement released by the department:
To the members and civilian staff of the Oakland Police Department: I wanted you to be the first to know that this morning I advised city Administrator Deanna Santana that, effective immediately I am on medical leave and taking steps toward medical retirement.
This decision has been difficult but necessary. Through my 24 years of wearing an OPD badge and uniform I have emulated the department’s core values: Honesty, Respect and Integrity – values I have observed in all of you. I know that you and the department will carry on these values to generations to come.
It has been an honor to serve the city of Oakland with you.
“I had to make a choice,” Jordan told KPIX 5 in an interview near his home. “It’s deteriorating my health.”
Oakland City Council President Larry Reid, who chairs the Public Safety Committee said he was just in closed session with the chief on Tuesday.
“There was no inkling that what transpired today was going to take place,” Reid said.
The announcement came shortly after the Oakland Police Department abruptly canceled a scheduled 12:30 p.m. news conference on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the findings of an independent report on recommendations for reducing crime in the city.
Oakland paid $250,000 to commission the report from a team of consultants that included Bill Bratton, the former Los Angeles police chief, who also served as commissioner of the New York and Boston police departments.
He led the department during Occupy protests during which police tactics were criticized. The department has struggled with rising crime and staff shortages that have required it to get help from the California Highway Patrol during Jordan’s watch.
Meanwhile, the FBI’s latest crime statistics show that Oakland has the nation’s highest robbery rate.
Dom Arotzarena, former head of the Oakland Police Officers’ Association, wasn’t surprised Jordan is quitting for medical reasons.
“The man was chief of police during some of the worst times in the history of Oakland. You know, losing four officers in one day, officers being laid off in a city that absolutely needs cops. This man’s been there dealing with a lot of these issues. It does weigh on you,” he said.
Some members of the department who would not give their names said many on the force were run down by the police brass, lead by Jordan and that he made their jobs more difficult by handing out harsh discipline for minor infractions.
City Councilmember Desley Brooks said she didn’t buy the allegations but that she sees this as an opportunity. “The department has been in need of leadership for a significant period of time now and I think this gives us an opportunity again to look for a chief to right this department,” said Brooks.
Councilmember Pat Kernighan wished Jordan well. “I think he’s been just extraordinarily brave and steadfast in the face of extraordinarily challenging circumstances,” she said.
Oakland Attorney John Burris, whose lawsuit on behalf of plaintiffs who accused the department of engaging in police brutality ended with a settlement mandating a series of police reforms, said Wednesday he was surprised by the timing of Jordan’s announcement but not the fact that he is stepping down.
Burris said a report released last week by newly appointed compliance director Thomas Frazier was “pretty scathing about the command structure’s responsibility for the department not being in compliance with the reforms mandated by the court settlement.”
Regarding the Frazier report, Jordan told KPIX 5, “I welcome those changes, I embrace some of the recommendations. There are issues in there that I didn’t necessarily agree with, but those are issues that are going to make the department better.”
Assistant Chief Anthony Toribio said he would take the helm as acting chief until a successor to Jordan is appointed.
Jordan was appointed police chief on Feb. 1, 2012 by Mayor Jean Quan.
He had served as interim chief since October 2011 after former police Chief Anthony Batts abruptly resigned.
Jordan served as chief for less than two years, but has spent 24 years in the department.
Political consultant and former Oakland mayoral candidate Joe Tuman noted that Jordan is the second chief to step down under Mayor Quan.
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