SAN FRANCISCO (CN) — Much of the testimony in Oakland Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick’s whistleblower retaliation trial has been devoted to her conflicts with members of the city’s civilian police commission.
As chief of police, Kirkpatrick was expected to answer to many bosses within the city of Oakland, and witnesses said Tuesday that she seemed to resist taking direction from even more of them — especially the seven-member civilian oversight board that was established just before the start of her contract in 2017.
“From the beginning of the commission being seated, she was resistant to seeing us as additional supervisors,” commission chair Regina Jackson testified Tuesday. “At one point, she said 'I will let you know if I intend to attend your meetings.’”
The jury viewed a clip of a May 23, 2019, police commission meeting where commissioner Edwin Prather questioned Kirkpatrick on why the police department’s budget did not appear to be “a financial expression of the values of the department.”
He said, "What I don't see here is a department that's committed to transformative change.”
Kirkpatrick seemed to bristle at this, and answered that budget change requests are vetted by the mayor’s office.
Jackson interjected, reminding Kirkpatrick, “We are also an entity that you report to.”
Kirkpatrick answered, “I will be happy to share your comments with the mayor and with the city manager, and we can come back, and I will take the direction that they would like for me to take.”
Prather described Kirkpatrick’s attitude as “tone deaf.”
Kirkpatrick was ousted in February 2020 after the commission voted to terminate her without cause with the support of Mayor Libby Schaaf, whose backing they required.
Kirkpatrick is now fighting her dismissal in court, claiming she was booted for reporting corruption and misconduct within the police commission.
Prather testified Tuesday that he and Jackson, along with Henry Gage, a new appointment to the commission, visited Schaaf just days before Kirkpatrick was fired to discuss terminating her for cause.
For months, the commission had been exploring how to terminate her with cause, even hiring counsel to advise them on the issue. They met seven times in closed session between May 2019 and February 2020 to talk discuss Kirkpatrick’s performance, which they believed was falling short.
Jackson said she thought Chief Kirkpatrick should have acted swiftly to address racial disparities in recruiting and hiring within the department, but instead allowed a captain who consistently overlooked qualified applicants who were women and of color to continue to command its recruiting unit.
Jackson said she reached out to Mayor Schaaf after an open letter by the executive board of the Oakland Black Officers Association called out racism in the department.
"She [Schaaf] offered to me that she had to force the chief to remove the person being complained about,” Jackson said.
Jackson said the captain should have been removed immediately. “For at the mayor to have to force her to do it says she was resisting being the leader she had been painted to be and was supposed to be.”
Jackson testified that Kirkpatrick removed the Black female lieutenant who had previously commanded the unit and replaced her with Capt. Jake Bassett, the white male accused of discounting qualified applicants for minor reasons.
“The immediate two academies under his direction had no Black people at all in it,” Jackson said. “Once the mayor forced Bassett's removal, the former chief replaced that person with a white female, Virginia Gleason. For the next six or seven academies there were no Black females at all.”
Jackson was also unsettled by how Kirkpatrick handled the police killing of Joshua Pawlik, a homeless man found sleeping in an alley who was killed in a hail of gunfire by several police officers. Pawlik was unconscious but had a gun at hand when the officers responded to the scene, and they opened fire when he awoke, using a BearCat, an armored vehicle, as a shooting platform.