Oakland, police chief

Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao Appoints New Police Chief Amidst Rising Crime Concerns

Oakland has been a revolving door for police chiefs. Since 2005, 12 permanent and interim chiefs of police have been hired and fired.

On March 22, Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao announced the hiring of Floyd Mitchell, the former police chief of Lubbock, Texas, to the same position in the Bay Area city. 

As KQED reports, Thao hopes that Mitchell can provide long-term stability to a department since LeRonne Armstrong was fired in February 2023. 

“I know that he’s a strong leader, and I know that he’s a smart crime fighter who delivers results,” Thao told KQED in an interview. “His commitment to proven crime-reduction strategies include proactive policing, and the most important part is the strong officer community engagement.”

Mitchell’s record of effective crime reduction in Texas, where he was the City of Lubbock’s first Black police chief, made him an attractive hire for Thao.

According to data from the Mayor of Lubbock’s office, crime in the city was reduced by 5% between 2020 and 2021 before it went up by 7% the following year.

In Temple, a smaller Texas town, the mayor’s office said that crime fell each year Mitchell was police chief. 

Others are concerned about other aspects of Mitchell’s record, such as former Alameda County Superior Court Judge Brenda Harbin-Forte, who told KQED she was concerned about 911 response times.

“I am troubled by some of what he brings, particularly as it relates to 911 response times. He left his old job because of concerns with that. Oakland, as you know, has for months been trying to fix our 911 response time,” Harbin-Forte said. “I hope he will be able to get up to speed and get Oakland up to speed on this.”

Thao, as Mercury News reported, believes that Mitchell can implement one of the department’s key violence interruption initiatives, similar to others being employed around the country. 

As The Guardian reported, Operation Ceasefire, as Oakland’s initiative is known, was shifted by the pandemic and never returned to its pre-pandemic focus on people as opposed to another version of “broken-windows” policing. 

Thao conceded that Mitchell is going to have to answer the questions swirling about his resignation around the 911 response time. “There were no excuses from him,” Thao said. “He talked about what he learned from the situation that makes him a better police officer, a better chief.”

However, as an outsider, Mitchell is going to have to get the department to buy into his program, as former Oakland police chief Anne Kirkpatrick told Mercury News.

Oakland has been a revolving door for police chiefs since 2005. In that time, 12 permanent and interim chiefs of police have been hired and fired. Part of what makes the job in Oakland difficult are the competing values of calls for safety and its history of police brutality, which it is currently under orders from federal courts to curtail. 

Cat Brooks, the co-founder of Oakland’s Anti Police-Terror Project, told KQED, “I’m concerned that might be a move he makes to quell the more conservative, carceral voices that have gotten louder in Oakland.”

“As Oakland’s police chief I look forward to working together with our residents, business owners, city leadership, and members of the police commission to build a stronger and safer Oakland,” Mitchell said in a statement, according to Oaklandside. “I am excited about the opportunity to meet the members of the police department, interact with all the people who call this beautiful city home, and become an integral part of this special place.”

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