City officials scramble to make city feel safe and secure as police changes occur
Some of the those who have had a say on how the Oakland Police Department is run are (from Top, L to R): Consultant Bill Bratton, Consultant Chief Patrick Harnett, Acting Chief Anthony Toribio, Consultant Robert Wasserman, Commissioner Thomas Frazier, U.S. Judge Thelton Henderson, former OPD Chief Howard Jordan, Mayor Jean Quan, City Administrator Deanna Santana, Acting Chief Toribio. Collage by Adam L. Turner.
By Ken A. Epstein
Police Chief Howard Jordan’s decision to retire from the Oakland Police Department, effectively immediately, took police and city officials by surprise this week.
He made his announcement Wednesday morning right before a press conference scheduled to discuss recommendations of the city’s outside police consultants. The press conference was cancelled.
“I am on medical leave and taking steps toward medical retirement,” he said. “This decision has been difficult, but necessary.”
Jordan provided a little more information in an interview with ABC7 News.
“I was never forced out,” he told a television reporter. “I actually had been talking to my physician for quite some time now, and based on his recommendation I decided to make that decision…
“In the long run, you know, after 25 years of service I have to think about what’s good for me and my family. And my goal is to control my own destiny, and at this point the only way for me to do that is to resign or seek medical retirement so I can live longer.”
Anthony Toribio, a 23-year OPD veteran, is now acting chief. The city has announced it will conduct a national search for Jordan’s replacement.
There was much media speculation that Jordan may have been fired or forced out by Commissioner Thomas Frazier, the federal court-appointed overseer who Judge Thelton Henderson gave the authority to demote or fire the chief.
But according to PUEBLO Executive Director Rashidah Grinage, who met with Frazier and Independent Monitor Robert Warshaw this week, she had no indication the two federal appointees had an inkling the chief was planning to quit the next day.
“I was talking to them about our frustrations and concerns about the leadership. It is not at all obvious to me they were aware he was leaving,” she said.
Grinage said, however, that she had a meeting in March with Jordan that seemed to reveal something about his state of mind.
She was talking with the chief about adopting a policy suggested by youth that officers should give business cards to young people who they come in contact with.
“At one point, Jordan asked, ‘Whose decision do you think it is – this new policy?´ I said, ‘It’s yours. You’re the chief.’ He replied, ‘Not everybody sees it that way.’”
“I have had the feeling, ever since he made that remark, that he was feeling that he had no authority anymore. He felt besieged. So, who can blame him for leaving?”
In addition to Monitor Warshaw and Commissioner Frazier, OPD is currently being evaluated by teams of police consultants hired by the city.
While consultants Bill Bratton and Robert Wasserman are making recommendations, they do not have the authority to make decisions, Grinage said.
“ Tom Frazier is running this department now. Ultimately, it’s up to Frazier what will be implemented. He’s doing what he was hired to do by the judge.”
Though some people may blame the compliance director for the difficult situation OPD now faces, “Ultimately, it is the city’s fault,” Grinage said.
“If City Administrator Deanna Santana were doing her job, we wouldn’t have a compliance director. She is the supervisor of the police department.”
“I wish people would start holding Santana accountable,” Grinage said. “If Mayor Quan wants to be re-elected, she better do something to hold Santana accountable. Leadership is all about being accountable for what happens on your watch.”
The city has had had two police chiefs resign since Quan has been mayor, she said. The city has had 10 years, more than enough time, to comply with the agreement with the federal court. “It’s the fault of the city’s leadership,” said Grinage.