Oakland’s new police chief highlights his priorities

Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao on March 22, 2024, announced former Lubbock, Texas Police Chief Floyd Mitchell as the city's new police chief. (City of Oakland via Bay City News)

Oakland’s new police chief said Wednesday that he will focus on building connections with the community, city leadership and the department’s rank-and-file officers to address Oakland’s complex law enforcement challenges.

At his introductory meeting with members of the news media at City Hall, Chief Floyd Mitchell said the foundation of his policing strategy begins with “strong community engagement and collaboration.”

Mitchell has more than 30 years of law enforcement experience and last served as police chief in Lubbock, Texas.

“I believe that when you’re actively engaged, you become aware and hypersensitive to the slight changes in neighborhoods and within the organization, and you’re able to react and respond faster to address these issues before they grow,” Mitchell said.

“My approach is high visibility, responsible, proactive policing that is procedurally just, data-driven and grounded in evidence-based strategies that address our most difficult issues,” he said.

The newly minted chief was raised along with his five siblings by a single mother in Kansas City, Missouri, where he also began his career in law enforcement.

“Much like Oakland, Kansas City is a large, diverse metropolitan city with many of the same social, economic and violent crime issues that are facing Oakland,” Mitchell said. He said he is committed to leading the department for a long time, thereby presumably ending Oakland’s fractious, often-chaotic relationship with its police chiefs, many of whom ran afoul of the city’s political leadership and either quit or were fired after brief, tumultuous tenures.

Mitchell praised Mayor Sheng Thao’s leadership, particularly her re-emphasis on the city’s Ceasefire strategy, which is designed to reduce gun violence and gang activity by focusing on the Police Department’s relationship with various communities and by working with key individuals to steer them away from crime. He also said he plans to work closely with the department’s federally appointed monitor, Robert Warshaw, who has overseen the department’s efforts at reform for roughly 20 years, to end the oversight program.

“I am going to sit down with the monitor and identify specifically what we need to do and how we need to do it to get to the end of this road,” Mitchell said.

“I think it’s important not only for the Police Department, but I think it’s important for the healing of this community to say that, you know, we can police ourselves and we can monitor ourselves.”

He also said he would work to ensure that the city’s recruitment and retention of officers is improved during his tenure.

“You want to make the Oakland Police Department be the employer of choice for the Bay Area,” Mitchell said. “You want your officers to know that they’re going to be supported and that you’re going to take care of them both from a benefits standpoint, but you’re also going to see them as a person.”

While his comments Wednesday were largely long on optimism and short on specifics, Mitchell said that during his first 100 days on the job he will focus on learning the ins and outs of the city and the department he was hired to lead.

During that time, he will be “getting out to meet everyone here, getting to know who my council members are, getting to know who are the movers and shakers within the organization, getting to know my command staff, getting to know their abilities, getting to know the Police Department and where we can get better and how we go about getting better,” Mitchell said.

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