Regulators: Chiefless OPD violates state law

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf insisted Monday¬†that the leadership arrangement of the city’s troubled Police Department “is proper” and complies with state police regulations despite a state official’s statement to the contrary.

Schaaf announced on Friday night that she is putting City Administrator Sabrina Landreth in charge of the Police Department because of a series of scandals that have rocked the department, saying the department needs civilian oversight.

Ralph Brown, the spokesman for the Peace Officers Standards and Training Agency (POST), said state government code Section 38630 and an opinion by the California Attorney General’s Office state that a police department must be under the control of a police chief and having the same person serve as city administrator and chief of police is illegal.

But Schaaf said in a prepared statement:

“Tactical and operational decisions will remain with Oakland police commanders as they always have. …¬†Administrative and personnel decisions will come directly to the city administrator (Landreth).”

Schaaf added:

“Acting Assistant Chief of Police David Downing is the highest ranking member of the Police Department and is the city’s POST designee in charge of tactical and operational matters.”

Schaaf, who accused Brown of creating “confusion,” said Section 38640 “applies only to general law cities and not to charter cities,” such as Oakland.

She said that in charter cities:

“It is the city charter that provides the legal structure of governance and assigns functional oversight of all city departments, including the police department, to the city administrator.”

When Schaaf said on Friday night that Landreth will be temporarily leading the Police Department while she conducts a national search for a new permanent chief she also announced that former Assistant Police Chief Paul Figueroa was stepping down as acting chief after only two days.

Figueroa was the department’s third chief in eight days. Police Chief Sean Whent suddenly resigned on June 9 and was replaced by Ben Fairow, BART’s Deputy Chief, but Schaaf fired him on June 15.

Among the scandals that have plagued the department are allegations of sexual misconduct between several Oakland police officers and the underage daughter of a police dispatcher, the discovery of racist text messages and the revelation that an officer is under investigation for possible misconduct in a separate matter.