The Oakland Police Department has a new chief—at least for the next several months. Howard Jordan, formerly the department’s assistant chief, was sworn in as interim police chief at City Hall on Thursday afternoon. Jordan wore a dark gray suit and stood with his right hand raised as Mayor Jean Quan swore him in in front of an audience of about twenty officers. The ceremony ended with loud applause from the officers and a hug from Quan.
“He is probably the best person and the most prepared to be Oakland’s police chief,” said Quan during a press conference held before the ceremony. “He is prepared like almost no one else in the police force.”
Jordan became the new head of the OPD two days after former Chief Anthony Batts announced his resignation. Batts said one of the reasons he decided to leave the OPD was because of the “layers of bureaucracy” he had to deal with in a daily basis.
During Thursday’s upbeat press conference, which was packed with reporters and police officers, Jordan said he will work closely with City Administrator Deanna Santana to address Batts’ concerns and other issues within the department. “Change is difficult, but I think it is necessary to change the culture of our organization,” he said.
Jordan will serve as interim chief until January 2012, which is the deadline for the police department to comply with the reforms to their codes and procedures ordered by Judge Thelton Henderson of the Northern California District Court in 2003.
The reforms, established in an agreement between Oakland and the court, followed the “Riders” controversy, in which four Oakland police veterans were accused of assaulting and abusing West Oakland residents in the course of their police duties. The changes the department must make address police training, discipline reviews, and compliance with police regulations. If the OPD fails to comply with the agreement, it could be put under federal control.
Quan said Jordan has the expertise and qualities necessary to assume the OPD’s leadership. “He has taken on every tough job in the city,” she said, referring to his stints working as an OPD patrol officer, a SWAT team member and an Oakland school district police officer.
This is not Jordan’s first time as OPD’s interim chief. He was sworn in as head of the department in 2009, after former police chief Wayne Tucker retired. In March 2009, Jordan’s third month on the job, four police officers were killed during a shooting in East Oakland.
“It was the most difficult challenge for any police chief,” Jordan said. “During those months I learned the responsibilities and challenges of being chief, and I assumed and embraced them.”
Jordan has collaborated before with the mayor, including accompanying Quan in January during her first visit as mayor to police beat 33X, a zone with the highest crime rates in the city, to talk to residents about crime prevention. “Howard was my partner that day,” Quan said. “We knocked on doors, we talked to people. We went from no one calling to the police hotline to having 20 to 30 people after that day.”
Batts attended the press conference but didn’t take the podium, remaining seated among his colleagues, where he appeared to cheerfully chat and joke with them. “Jordan was my right hand. I wish him the best,” he said to a group of reporters after the press conference.
Batts said that although Quan was surprised by his resignation, she was very supportive. “I appreciate all the support of the community and of City Administrator Santana and Mayor Quan,” he said.
“I’m not having second thoughts,” Batts added. “I think my decision comes at the right time.” Batts has said that he will soon take a research and teaching position at Harvard University.
City Administrator Santana said after meeting the court’s January 2012 deadline, she will decide whether to permanently appoint Jordan as head of the OPD, search nationwide for other possible candidates, or conduct the recruitment process she used to appoint San Jose’s police chief while serving as that city’s deputy manager.
“Getting through January is our priority,” Santana said. “If the future of the department is well and solid, I will choose one of these three options.”