Oakland's First Female Police Chief Takes Office

Anne Kirkpatrick says she is up to the challenge posed by the troubled department

Anne Kirkpatrick, the first female police chief to be hired in Oakland's history, was sworn in Monday morning.

Kirkpatrick, 57, a former police chief in Spokane, Washington, inherits a department recently marred by a sexual misconduct scandal involving a teenager, a racist text scandal and accusations of excessive force.

"This is the message," Kirkpatrick said. "What has happened has happened. Today, we got a new day. It’s new beginnings. We’re moving forward. That’s not to dismiss history. History is a part of our fabric, but we’ve got to look to the future."

Among her goals include the need to implement a culture change throughout the department and improve safety across the East Bay city.

Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley said the new chief will help provide much needed stability and leadership.

"I think people don’t know what they are supposed to do one day from another," O'Malley said.

In the past, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf has expressed disgust with some of the behavior within the Oakland Police Department, adding she was not hired to oversee a "frat house."

Kirkpatrick said her focus will be on transforming, not reforming.

"Transformation is when you think differently, and when you think differently, your cultures change," she said.

Kirkpatrick, who has 35 years of law enforcement experience, actually applied to run Oakland's police department under former Mayor Jean Quan, a source told the East Bay Times. However, Sean Whent was awarded the job, but he later became the first chief to resign amid the sex-abuse scandal.

In all, the Oakland Police Department has had six police chiefs since 2011: Paul Figueroa, Ben Fairow, Whent, Anthony Toribio, Howard Jordan and Anthony Batts.

Civil rights attorney John Burris, who negotiated the settlement that placed the department under federal oversight in 2003, said the city was close to regaining local control until the recent scandals.

"It’s important that (Kirkpatrick) understand why that case came about and the importance of carrying it through," Burris said of the infamous Riders scandal that involved alleged police brutality and misconduct by a group of Oakland officers in the 1990s.

Kirkpatrick said she is up to the challenge.

"I am not a quitter," she said.

Before joining the East Bay department, Kirkpatrick most recently spent six months as the Chief of Bureau of Organizational Development for the Chicago Police Department.

Kirkpatrick was also the police chief of Spokane from 2006 to 2012, where she struggled with the aftershocks of a fatal police beating and hog-tying of a janitor. The incident prompted outcry and a demand for police reforms and accountability.

However, Kirkpatrick's attempt at holding officers responsible for their actions did not sit well with the department's rank-and-file, according to the Chicago Tribune. In fact, a detective sued her and the city of Spokane for defamation and wrongful termination after he was fired for allegedly threatening his wife. Not only was Jay Mehring awarded over $700,000 by a jury, but he was also reinstated to the force.

After Kirkpatrick's departure, a Justice Department review reprimanded the Spokane Police Department for a "lack of transparency, accountability, and community outreach efforts," which, they said, "increased the distance between the police and its community."

Kirkpatrick has also served as chief deputy of the King County Sheriff's Office in Washington state, where she supervised a staff of more than 1,000 from November 2012 to June 2014.

Kirkpatrick’s LinkedIn profile indicates she has been a licensed attorney in Washington state for 23 years, after graduating from the Seattle University School of Law. She also graduated from the FBI National Academy, the FBI National Executive Institute as well as the FBI's Law Enforcement Executive Development School.

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