OAKLAND — Before former Police Chief Leron Armstrong was fired in February, an inquiry found he failed to hold a troubled police officer accountable and made statements to outside investigators that undermined credibility. There was a lack.
Now, a retired judge reviewing Armstrong’s appeal has concluded there was no basis for the fired former chief to face discipline.
“The discipline imposed on Chief Armstrong should be reversed and expunged from his personnel record,” retired Judge Maria Rivera said in a new confidential report obtained by this news organization. The author
Reports – First obtained by KQED. – is non-binding, meaning it alone cannot force Armstrong to be reinstated as chief of the Oakland Police Department.
But it could play a major role in legal and public efforts to clear Armstrong’s name, which continued Monday, when he publicly vindicated himself.
“It says really clearly that I didn’t engage in policy violations, that I didn’t have any reputational issues, and that the statements made about me in this investigation were unfounded,” he said. “
Mayor Sheng Thao, who fired Armstrong in February, defended her decision Monday, saying it was not based on investigators’ preliminary findings, but rather how he took a “kneejerk approach” to keep his job. What was the beginning of the People’s War?
While on paid leave in January, Armstrong repeatedly defended his officers’ alleged wrongdoings as “mistakes” and suggested that the firing should have been carried out by a federal official overseeing OPD affairs. So they are being targeted unnecessarily.
“By immediately and prematurely standing up for himself personally, Mr. Armstrong failed to stand up for accountability at OPD,” Thaw said. “His behavior forced me to make one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever had to make.”
Rivera’s report, meanwhile, recommends that the parties “discuss all the ways in which this dispute can be resolved through negotiations, including the possibility of restoration.”
“It would be wise for both parties, and of great benefit to the citizens of Auckland, to avoid the costs and associated toll of lengthy litigation,” the report said.
Armstrong was initially placed on paid administrative leave in January after an investigation by a San Francisco law firm determined he had overlooked alleged misconduct by a sergeant under his supervision.
Key details of the officer’s alleged wrongdoing — including crashing into a citizen’s parked car — were denied by his superior internal affairs officers, while the chief later made such statements in interviews. Which led investigators to question his credibility, the investigation found.
Rivera’s report, however, found that the investigation “had errors in the characterization of Chief Armstrong’s statements during his interview, rendering the assessment of credibility unreliable.”
It determined that the investigators’ findings “are not adequately supported by the record, and lack adequate context.”
The report did not take a formal position on whether Armstrong should be reinstated, noting that the decision should “consider matters of policy as well as incidents of interference.”
Still, the report is likely to carry political weight. The head of Oakland’s citizen-led police commission offered support Monday for a possible reinstatement of the chief.
“We knew at the time that the allegations against the chief lacked credibility and he said so publicly,” said the commission’s chairperson, Tefhara Mele, who earlier this year served another term as a member. was not approved – mostly because of the political controversy surrounding it. Insist that Armstrong not be fired.
Notably, the report takes no position on Robert Warshaw, the federal official overseeing OPD whose integrity has come under fire from Armstrong.
Jim Channon, a civil rights attorney who led the OPD lawsuit two decades ago that led to the department being placed under federal oversight, said in January that his own omissions led to an outside investigation.
But, echoing the mayor, Chenin said it was Armstrong’s public campaign against officials — not the initial scandal — that led to his downfall.
“It’s hard to see how he could expect a department or a police chief when he believed the monitor was corrupt and the mayor was his pawn,” Chenin said in an interview.