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Dysfunction Plagues Oakland’s Top Cop Search While Crime Rates Rise

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(Clockwise from top left:) Police Commissioner Regina Jackson. File photo. | Police Commission Chair Tyfahra Milele. File photo. | Rashidah Grinage, a Coalition for Police Accountability coordinator. File photo. | Cathy Leonard, president of the Coalition for Police Accountability. File photo.

Thao seeks to boost crime reduction and hire a new chief.

By Ken Epstein

The City of Oakland’s leadership is seeking to beef up police presence in affected neighborhoods as Oakland, along with many other cities across the country, experiences a rising crime wave. Meanwhile, resources are drying up as federal pandemic funding comes to an end.

The city is already increasing enforcement and is moving toward placing more officers and crime prevention personnel on city streets, strengthening the respected Ceasefire crime reduction program, and providing six police academies to bring more officers into the department, according to Mayor Sheng Thao.

Assistant Chief Darren Allison.

Assistant Chief Darren Allison.

In an interview this week with KTVU2, Thao said she is working closely with the Oakland Police Department under the seasoned leadership of 25-year veteran Assistant Chief Darren Allison, while the city searches for a new police chief to replace LeRonne Armstrong, who was fired in February by the mayor.

However, a national search for a new chief is hampered by dysfunction on the city’s powerful Oakland Police Commission, according to many observers.

Mayor Sheng Thao

Mayor Sheng Thao

Though she has already allocated funds to pay for the search, Mayor Thao said in her KTVU interview that the commission has not agreed on hiring an executive search consultant and has therefore not yet begun the search process.

 “I am pushing and pressuring them to actually finally agree on a consultant,” she said. “We are waiting for the police commission to actually go and sign with the consultant.”

Critics are saying the failure to hire a search consultant and a variety of other issues undermining the functioning of the commission are the responsibility of the commission’s chair, Tyfahra Milele, who they want to step to down.

“I wouldn’t know why they haven’t found a consultant, except that they are inept,” said Rashidah Grinage, a member of the Coalition for Police Accountability, which helped establish and now monitors police commission activities.

Coalition for Police Accountability logo.

Coalition for Police Accountability logo.

In a letter this week to commissioners, Cathy Leonard, president of the Coalition for Police Accountability, detailed 10 concerns about Milele’s leadership.

“If she is allowed to remain as chair … the damage done … will be significant,” the letter said. “Losing the credibility and trust of the community, the city and the federal court may have the effect of prolonging the federal oversight over the police department.”

According to the letter, Milele attended an OPD retreat before Armstrong was fired but did not tell other commissioners.

The letter also stated that the commission did not have the standing to weigh in on the firing of the chief because Milele failed to subpoena records related to the handling and mishandling of an internal OPD case against Sgt. Michael Chung, which was connected to the chief’s firing.

Milele also interfered with the work of the commission’s Inspector General, resulting in an Ethics Commission complaint, the letter said.

According to KTVU, Milele wrote a response saying that the commission is “very actively involved in searching for a new police chief,” and said that “we worked diligently on this paramount assignment, as we have on multiple occasions.”

In a strongly worded press statement, Milele blasted KTVU’s news reporting and her critics, who include members of the Police Commission and police accountability activists, saying, “We are profoundly disappointed by a troubled local TV station’s (reporting) … that repeats inaccurate, malicious assertions and fails to take into account verifiable facts that were made available to the writer of the … screed.”

former Alameda County Chief Assistant District Attorney Terry Wiley.

former Alameda County Chief Assistant District Attorney Terry Wiley.

Backing Milele’s leadership, former Alameda County Chief Assistant District Attorney Terry Wiley, an unsuccessful candidate in November for Alameda County DA, supported her at a May 25 police commission meeting.

“From my viewpoint, I have a very positive view of this commission,” Wiley told the commission. “And I think that her leadership should continue.”

Regina Jackson, currently a member of the police commission and former three-time chair of the commission, wrote a letter to the City Council on June 5 adding her concerns about Milele’s leadership:

“Chair Milele arbitrarily has no responsibility to anyone but herself. The ‘Chair-driven’ protocol she has put in place does not treat commissioners as the code of conduct requires with fairness and equity, it is a clear abuse of power. It is also in direct violation of the very measures LL and S1 which Oakland voters supported.

“It is my professional opinion that Chair Milele has abused power, retaliated against commissioners and has not been accountable or transparent to commissioners or the community. Her chairmanship should be ended as soon as possible.”

In her response to the KTVU report and her critics, Milele wrote, “The extremist attack by an unelected, unaccountable, small group of politically ambitious zealots counters the will of the Oakland electorate and makes flagrantly false allegations. That a controversial local TV outlet, hoping to stop the erosion of its dwindling audience, would simply repeat the libels with a reckless disregard for the truth prompts this response.”

Denying that the commission has failed to move promptly to hire a search firm to find a new police chief, she submitted a detailed timeline of the commission’s efforts to initiate a search, adding that “A vigorous, ongoing search for a new Oakland police chief is and has been underway for months. We don’t understand why the mayor would have said the Commission is not searching for a consultant when as recently as [June 6] the Commission’s search committee met with the City’s HR Department and nominee search firm.”

Milele also accuses her critics of an attempt to seize power. “This is an attempted power grab by a small band of political extremists with a personal agenda that will make the Oakland Police Department still more difficult to reform and continue the seriously mounting crime issues plaguing the good people of Oakland.”

The Oakland Post will continue to follow this story and the response to these issues by city and community leaders.

The post Dysfunction Plagues Oakland’s Top Cop Search While Crime Rates Rise first appeared on Post News Group. This article originally appeared in Post News Group.

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