A federal jury found that former Oakland Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick was fired in retaliation for blowing the whistle on alleged misconduct within the city’s police commission.
Thursday’s verdict in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California also awarded Kirkpatrick $337,635 in damages, an amount equal to one year of her salary.
“Chief Kirkpatrick is beaming with joy at the jury’s decision in her favor,” said spokesman Sam Singer. “The jury completely vindicated Chief Kirkpatrick’s whistleblower claims of corrupt actions by the Police Commission and City of Oakland.”
Kirkpatrick sued the city in August 2020 after she was fired by Mayor Libby Schaaf in February after almost three years on the job.
In her suit, the former chief said her firing was in retaliation for reporting several instances of commissioner misconduct to city officials, including allegedly attempting to use their offices for personal gain, seeking special treatment from the police department and inappropriately meddling in the department’s operations, among other things.
In one instance, Kirkpatrick alleged that two now-former commissioners — Ginale Harris and Jose Dorado — tried to “steer resources towards their own neighborhoods” and resorted to “bullying, threats, and intimidation of two low-level OPD employees,” which the city denies in court filings.
In another, Kirkpatrick alleged that Harris tried to get out of a tow truck fee by showing her badge at an OPD records clerk and asking if they “know who I am,” according to the suit. Kirkpatrick said she believed Harris’ actions equated to asking for a “personal favor” and “special treatment” and told Harris she should follow the normal appeals process.
In court filings, Harris denied seeking to get out of the tow fees and ultimately paid the full amount. The commission’s “campaign of intimidation, harassment, and interference with OPD leadership reached its climax in the fall of 2019,” when commissioners berated a high-ranking civilian OPD staffer during her report on the department’s efforts to increase diversity within its ranks, according to the suit.
Kirkpatrick said she thought the commissioners’ behavior at that meeting could be retaliation for the chief’s handling of the tow truck fee incident. The city claimed that Kirkpatrick would have been fired anyway, even without her whistleblowing, for “legitimate, independent reasons,” according to court documents. While the jury found Kirkpatrick was wrongfully fired, it denied the claim that her First Amendment rights were violated.
“After weighing the facts of the case, the jury decided Ms. Kirkpatrick is not entitled to any more than the one-year severance the City was ready and willing to pay when she was terminated in 2020,” Oakland City Attorney Barbara Parker said Friday.
Police Commission Chair Tyfahra Milele didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.