Concerns are being raised that Mayor Libby Schaaf has promoted Oakland Police Department (OPD) Acting Assistant Chief David Downing to a position as permanent Assistant Police Chief, without informing the public or the City Council.
In addition, the Post has received reports that Downing – who is white – is promoting white officers to command positions and delaying or halting promotions of Black officers.
Some are saying Downing’s promotion a serious failure of Mayor Schaaf to live up to her commitment to transparency.
“My concern is that the mayor did not notify the council or the public of the appointment, when all of her other police appointees had been made so publically,” said Councilmember Desley Brooks, who heads the City Council’s Public Safety Committee.
Sources have told the Post that promotions of Black officers and other officers of color have been stopped or put on hold – while white officers who are part of the old guard – some with a history of racial insensitivity – are being promoted to command positions.
The Mayor’s Office had originally stated that Downing would be in the acting position for only six months. As assistant police chief, Downing serves as police chief until the new chief is hired.
Downing was alleged in recent media report to have used “racially insensitive language” in internal police meetings several years ago, advocating for the use of water cannons and water hoses on protesters.
An Oakland police source told KRON4 “that they were in a meeting when they heard Downing advocate for using water cannons against protesters and that the then-deputy chief Downing seemed oblivious to the racial overtones.”
Further, Mother Jones reports that Downing was asked to leave his previous position with the Concord, CA police department because he clashed with colleagues, exhibiting a “military style of leadership.”
In response to questions to the Mayor’s Office, the Post received a reply from the City Administrator’s Office.
“Acting Assistant Chief David Downing is in the role of Assistant Chief until a permanent or interim leader is named for the Oakland Police Department,” the statement said.
“At that time the new head of the department will determine who will serve on the command staff. The City of Oakland adheres to federal, state and local laws that prohibit discrimination in hiring and promotion practices.”