Few answers about Jordan’s medical retirement at press conference
on May 9, 2013
City and police officials expressed their surprise at Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan’s abrupt resignation, but had few details about what prompted the Wednesday morning announcement.
At a standing-room-only press conference Wednesday afternoon at OPD headquarters, police spokesperson Johnna Watson and City Administrator Deanna Santana were asked repeatedly whether Thomas Frazier, the department’s compliance director, had recommended Jordan’s removal. They would not directly respond to the questions. Frazier released a report last week that criticized the department’s command structure and investigations of alleged police misconduct. In a notice posted on the city’s website, Jordan said he was seeking retirement for medical reasons.
“I cannot share any medical information other than he is on medical leave and he is taking steps toward a medical retirement,” Santana said.
She said Frazier and federal monitor Robert Warshaw, who tracks the department’s progress on the decade-old Negotiated Settlement Agreement from the 2000 “Riders” police misconduct lawsuit, have been notified of Jordan’s announcement.
Jordan was not at the press conference. City officials are looking to open a nationwide search as soon as possible to find a replacement, Santana said.
In a letter to OPD officers and in a statement on the city’s website, Jordan said the decision was “difficult, but necessary.” Assistant Chief Anthony Toribio will become the department’s acting chief and will handle the department’s day-to-operations.
“I understand the suddenness of this change may cause uncertainty within and outside the department,” Toribio said at the press conference. “By the very manner and structure of our organization, Chief Jordan’s departure caused no uncertainty in the department’s mission or progress. I carry the same commitment to the work now underway.”
The abrupt resignation came moments before a scheduled noontime news conference with Jordan and former New York City and Los Angeles Police Commissioner Bill Bratton. That press conference was quickly canceled and rescheduled for Thursday morning. Bratton was set to present a crime reduction plan that was a part of a $250,000 contract that brought in a six-member consultant panel in late January.
“This not the press conference I thought we were going to have today,” Mayor Jean Quan said. She reminisced about the first time she met Jordan, when he was a young lieutenant working to professionalize the Oakland public schools’ police force years ago.
“What I learned then, which I have been happy to see over the years, is that this is a man who can talk to young people, who would walk the walk,” she said. “I am saddened to hear the news. I trust he is doing what’s best for himself and his family.”
Quan said she thinks the city will still have hiring authority for the next chief, but that the compliance director and federal monitor will probably want a say in the hiring process.
Multiple Oakland city officials attended the press conference, including District 5 Councilman Noel Gallo, District 7 Councilman Larry Reid, District 1 Councilman Dan Kalb and Council President Pat Kernighan.
“I really have a lot of admiration for [Jordan],” Kernighan said afterward. “He has stepped up, challenge after challenge. We’re going to miss him.”
Rashidah Grinage, director of PUEBLO, a community group that advocates for low-income Oakland residents, said despite his initial enthusiasm, Jordan had dragged his feet on several proposals, including one for business cards for OPD officers that could be given to community members.
“I certainly have been extremely frustrated with him recently,” she said in a phone interview. “I don’t even know if the person who succeeds him will be as enthusiastic about these proposals, in theory. Without knowing who his replacement will be, it’s hard to know whether this will be a step forward or not.”
You can read more about Jordan’s tenure as Oakland Police Chief here.
Update: May 10, 2013: Less than one day after announcing that Toribio would head the department, city officials announced that the Interim Chief of Police would instead be Sean Whent, who previously served as the deputy chief of the department’s Bureau of Risk Management, an office that oversees the Internal Affairs Division, among others. According to the city release, “Toribio has made a personal decision to step down to the position of Captain of Police. He fully supports the new leadership and will continue to contribute to the Department’s ongoing effort to reduce crime and meet full compliance with the Negotiated Settlement Agreement.”
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