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Ousted OPD Chief files suit, alleges wrongful termination

Former Oakland Police Chief Leronne Armstrong
Thomas Hawk
Flickr / Creative Commons
Former Oakland Police Chief Leronne Armstrong

According to the lawsuit filed Monday in Alameda County Superior Court, Armstrong had been unfairly punished for speaking critically about Robert Warshaw, who has served as federally appointed monitor overseeing the Oakland Police Department since 2010.

The lawsuit states, "Chief Armstrong's disclosure of Warshaw's self-dealing and fraud in serving as the monitor for his own financial benefit and to the detriment of the city and its taxpayers was a contributing factor in the city's decision to place Chief Armstrong on leave, discharge him, and fail to rehire him."

Warshaw was appointed monitor as part of a settlement of the 2000 class-action civil rights case Allen v. City of Oakland regarding allegations that OPD turned a blind eye to officer misconduct, including planting evidence and beating citizens.

The Allen lawsuit resulted in a negotiated settlement agreement that specifies approximately 52 tasks for the OPD to accomplish in order to reach compliance with federal oversight.

According to the suit, OPD was just five months away from exiting federal oversight when Warshaw hired an outside law firm to investigate Armstrong for a second time for weak leadership. The investigation summary contained three underlying reports.

Two detailed the actions of OPD Sgt. Michael Chung, who was involved in a hit-and-run while off duty and also allegedly accidentally discharged a firearm in an OPD elevator. The third report alleged that Armstrong failed to respond to Chung's wrongdoing.

Sunni M. Khalid is a veteran of more than 40 years in journalism, having worked has in print, radio, television, and web journalism.