OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) —After only two days in the job, Oakland’s acting police chief stepped down on Friday and was replaced by an interim chief as part of a major management shake-up of the beleaguered department.
Acting Chief Anthony Toribio said he had voluntarily decided to leave the top post and assume the rank of captain less than 48 hours after Mayor Jean Quan named him to take over for retiring Chief Howard Jordan.
Toribio had been a deputy chief and took over when Jordan made the stunning announcement on Wednesday that he was taking a leave and seeking a medical retirement after being named chief less than two years ago.
Deputy Chief Sean Whent was quickly sworn in Friday as interim chief. Whent, a 17-year veteran, has served in the department’s internal affairs and criminal justice divisions.
He became the third leader of the department this week and the fourth in less than two years.
The move came as the city continues to deal with one of the nation’s worst violent crime rates and with longstanding skepticism about the police department’s performance as it tries to avoid sanctions and a possible federal takeover.
“I understand that the suddenness of these changes may cause some speculation that the challenges we already have may be exacerbated, but in fact the opposite is true,” Whent said. “Although my appointment may be interim, I pledge to own the role and assignment as if it were not—both for the men and women of the police department which I now lead as well as for the citizens of Oakland, who I feel personally responsible for.” Whent also announced his new command staff.
He takes over during a tumultuous period when a federal court-appointed compliance director said in a critical report last week that the department’s punishment of officers for misconduct was rare. The department’s top brass was also criticized.
On Thursday, a consultant group led by former Los Angeles Police Chief Bill Bratton released a report saying burglaries were not being investigated properly, and high-ranking Oakland officers were not being held properly accountable after crimes are committed in the areas they oversee.
The consulting group also recommended that the department patrol the city in five districts, each led by a captain who would oversee a group of officers that can respond to crimes more effectively.
On Friday, Quan was grilled by reporters but refused to answer repeated questions on whether federally appointed compliance director Thomas Frazier had any role in Jordan’s departure and the department’s new leadership.
“This is Chief Whent’s day. We looked at the leadership team and who could pull it together on an interim basis,” Quan said. “I am determined to make the city safer.”
Oakland officials and two lawyers seeking a receivership of the department agreed late last year to appoint a compliance director. The deal stemmed from a decade-old police brutality lawsuit settlement resulting in still uncompleted court-ordered reforms.