The police chief in Oakland, Calif. has stepped down from his post, just two days after starting the job. The Bay Area city has been plagued by gun violence, which Oakland Police Department Chief Anthony Toribio wasn’t ready to deal with.
Toribio’s resignation was on the heels of previous chief Howard Jordan abruptly stepping down due to alleged health issues. Both vacated their positions one week after a federal court unleashed a scathing review of the department’s leadership, pointing to faulty police practices, which would’ve resulted in Jordan’s firing.
“I understand that the suddenness of these changes may cause speculation that the challenge we already have will be exacerbated, but in fact the opposite it true,” said Mayor Jean Quan.
For now, the OPD’s acting chief is 38-year-old Sean Whent, a 17-year veteran of the department. He previously held a position as OPD deputy chief, overseeing risk management, personal assessment, and internal affairs, which all coincidentally happened to be areas of concern by the federal court. “I’ll tell you one thing, the thugs on the street are more organized than we are,” said Councilman Noel Gallo. “No wonder we have a problem here.”
With a population of nearly 400,000 Oakland continues to see crime rates surge, and the police department has struggled to grab hold of the statistics. In 2012 there were 126 murders, the highest numbers since 2006, and up 22 percent from the previous year. Burglaries and robberies also rose, in what former gang member Kevin Grant believes is making for “a real ugly atmosphere right now.”
In 2010, a $30.5 million budget deficit resulted in 80 officers and 21 cadets being laid off, but ongoing corruption on the force, and the department’s failure to complete reforms which were to be handled in 2008, led to U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson appointing Thomas Frazier to oversee change efforts. Frazier is also allowed to fire the department’s chief.
An internal affairs investigation found that “certain people [in the department] have a hard time being objective when evaluating what police officers are doing,” which has been called a “police culture.”
Oakland is far from the only city in the country accused of not following proper protocol. Earlier in the year former officer Christopher Dorner went on a shooting rampage against the department, after being fired for reporting inappropriate activity among members of the LAPD.
Photo: Sam Wolson/SF Chronicle