OAKLAND (CBS / AP) — The troubled Oakland Police Department on Wednesday hired its first female leader, who is tasked with restoring confidence in an agency that cycled through three chiefs in as many weeks this summer after several officers were implicated in a sex scandal with an underage girl.
Anne Kirkpatrick takes over a police force that has been under federal court oversight since 2003 and without a chief for seven months. She has a track record of trying to overhaul troubled departments.
“The cornerstone of this chief recruitment process was community input. We listened to the community,” said Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf at the Wednesday afternoon press conference introducing the new chief. “Oaklanders wanted a leader with integrity able to change culture. Someone who would deliver on fair and just policing, prevent violence and increase accountability. And, most importantly, build community trust.”
Chicago’s police chief had hired Kirkpatrick this summer to lead reforms. She previously held high-ranking law enforcement posts in Washington state, including as Spokane’s police chief for six years through 2012. The city hired her to reform a department rocked by a police brutality scandal.
Speaking with a distinct southern drawl, Kirkpatrick vowed to rebuild damaged relations with Oakland’s significant black community while working to revitalize a demoralized rank-and-file force.
“I’m interested in transformation,” Kirkpatrick said.
She offered few specifics of her plans but said, “I don’t consider it a mess,” when asked about taking over the embattled department.
“Many of you all may know I was not looking for a job at the time when this opportunity came my way, but it is an opportunity. And I think it’s the greatest opportunity in America policing today,” said Kirkpatrick. “I know I need to earn the right to be their chief and I’m going to do everything I can to earn that and earn your respect as an outsider coming into Oakland.”
Maya Whitaker, a black community organizer who helped with the job search, said the new chief is aware that she is entering a “no-trust zone” and needs “to break down barriers.”
Whitaker said she’s optimistic that Kirkpatrick, who is white, has the experience to succeed in Oakland but the community “will hold her accountable” if she fails.
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.
Sgt. Barry Donlan, head of the officers’ union, said “Oakland’s hard-working police officers look forward to working collaboratively with Chief Kirkpatrick in serving our community.”
She joins a rare slate of female leaders of a large city. Oakland’s mayor, fire chief and city administrator are all women.
She will bring that experience to an Oakland agency dogged by a scandal that ensnared two dozen officers throughout the San Francisco Bay Area accused of having sex with the teen daughter of an Oakland dispatcher.
About a dozen Oakland officers resigned, were suspended or implicated in the scandal, and seven current and former Bay Area officers faced criminal charges.
The teen has told The Associated Press and other media outlets that she worked as a 17-year-old prostitute and had sex with two dozen officers, sometimes in exchange for tips on prostitution stings and protection from arrest.
The allegations led to Oakland cycling through three police chiefs in June before the mayor announced that the city administrator would take over management of the department until a permanent chief was hired.
The police force has been under federal court supervision since the 2003 settlement of a civil rights lawsuit that accused officers of planting evidence, beating suspects and other wrongdoing.
Under former Chief Sean Whent, the city was close to shedding court oversight when the sex scandal derailed the department’s reform process in June and forced Whent to resign.
Bay Area Rapid Transit Deputy Chief Ben Fairow was appointed to replace Whent but resigned shortly afterward when news of an extramarital affair surfaced.
Oakland Deputy Chief Paul Figueroa agreed to act as interim chief but stepped down two days later for unknown reasons. Figueroa was then demoted to captain, and management of the department was turned over to the city administrator.
TM and © Copyright 2017 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.