Former Oakland Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick’s whistleblower lawsuit has gone to trial. Opening statements were held Monday, May 16 in a federal courtroom. The trial is expected to last a couple of weeks.
Kirkpatrick was appointed in 2016 to oversee — and reform — the scandal-ridden Oakland Police Department. She came to OPD with three decades of experience and a reputation for cleaning up corruption. Expectations couldn’t have been higher.
To hear the city tell it, Kirkpatrick dropped the ball. According to the city’s lawyer Katharine Van Dusen, OPD got worse under her watch, falling out of compliance on four tasks OPD had previously met compliance for. The Oakland Police Commission, a seven-member board tasked with overseeing OPD policies, lost confidence in Kirkpatrick and voted unanimously to terminate her in 2020.
In emotional testimony, Kirkpatrick told the jury a much different version of events.
“The former chief, who at times wept on the stand, defended her performance, noting that crime rates fell during the years she led the department, and that OPD reduced racial disparities in police stops,” Oaklandside reports. “She testified that she was blindsided by [Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf’s] decision to join the commission in terminating her. The firing left her humiliated and unable to find another police chief job, she said.”
Kirkpatrick says she was fired for ‘blowing the whistle’ on abuses of power committed by two members of the Police Commission. In 2018, commissioners Ginale Harris and Jose Dorado allegedly met with neighborhood service coordinators and tried to “steer Oakland police department resources to their own neighborhoods.” Additionally, Kirkpatrick claims Harris showed her police commissioner badge to a records clerk to try to get out of paying her vehicle towing fees. She “told the record clerk that if she had to pay the tow fees there was going to be a problem,” according to Kirkpatrick’s lawyer.
Kirkpatrick says she reported the alleged misconduct to the mayor, city administration, city attorney, and the city auditor and ethics commission director. All of them are taking the stand in the trial, including Mayor Libby Schaaf.