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Former Oakland Police Chief Sues City for Retaliation and Wrongful Termination

— February 7, 2024

In his complaint, former Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong claimed the mayor herself admitted that he was fired without cause.

Former Oakland police Chief LeRonne Armstrong has filed a lawsuit against the California city, accusing its highest-ranking officials of retaliation.

According to The San Francisco Chronicle, the complaint was filed in Alameda County Superior Court earlier this week. In it, Armstrong and his attorneys characterized the lawsuit as “unusual,” saying that Oakland’s mayor has effectively confessed to firing the former chief without legal cause.

“This is an unusual wrongful termination case,” the lawsuit alleges. “The city’s sole decision-maker [Mayor Sheng Thao] has repeatedly and publicly explained her reasons for the unlawful termination—and those reasons are illegal and retaliatory on their face.”

Thao, notes the Chronicle, fired Armstrong in February of 2023, shortly after being elected to the mayorship. Armstrong was quickly placed on administrative leave, after which the results of an investigation purportedly found that he had mishandled at least two police misconduct claims.

Although an arbitrator later cleared Armstrong of wrongdoing, Thao explicitly said that she would terminate him “without cause,” allowing Armstrong to receive severance compensation.

Thao justified her decision, saying that it was motivated—in part—by certain comments Armstrong made that “troubled” her.

Image via Wikimedia Commons. No author named. (CCA-BY-3.0)

Armstrong had, for instance, allegedly defended officers accused of misconduct, while simultaneously suggesting that the claims leveled against them were not reflective of any widespread or systemic issues within the Oakland Police Department.

Between the time he was placed on administrative leave and the time that he was fired, Armstrong continued to dispute the findings of Thao’s investigations and insisted that he be given his job back.

Will Edelman, an attorney for Armstrong, said that the former police chief was actually a whistleblower.

“He was fired because he spoke out about the misconduct of a high-ranking official: the monitor,” Edelman said, referring to federal oversight monitor Robert Warshaw.

In his lawsuit, Armstrong indicated that Warshaw’s position encourages him to find “systemic problems and leadership failures because the monitor personally benefits by requiring further supervision under the monitor’s well-compensated gaze.”

Billie Wenter, another attorney representing Armstrong, said that his client wants his job back—and hopes to hold other officials accountable for enforcing a system that is designed to find problems within the police department, even when and where none exist.

“The other goal and among others are to continue to reveal and shed some light on the improper purpose behind the monitor continuing to assert these false criticism against the Oakland Police Department,” said Billie Wenter, another attorney representing Armstrong.

Wenter said that one of the desired outcomes of the claim is Armstrong’s reinstatement as police chief.

“He loved Oakland,” Wenter said. “He grew up in Oakland. He cared about the community. He served his role proudly and he still wants to do that.”


Ex-Oakland police chief files blistering lawsuit against city, Mayor Thao

Former Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong files wrongful termination lawsuit against city, mayor

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