Debunking Ex-Chief Kirkpatrick’s PR Offensive

Posted on March 7, 2020


The dismissal of Oakland Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick by the Oakland Police Commission and Oakland Mayor has had unintended outcomes. The banished public servant re-incorporated several days after her dismissal as a chimeric source of anti-oversight propaganda. Kirkpatrick’s post-firing jeremiads were now melded with complaints about Federal monitoring and the Police Commission—long a staple of the Oakland Police Officer’s Assn rhetoric. These were packaged into stunts and soundbites courtesy of infamous PR troll Sam Singer, who Kirkpatrick apparently hired after her firing. Kirkpatrick has gone from police chief to full-time anti-oversight activist and a sympathetic local media has seemed happy to broadcast every action from the frontlines of the All Chiefs Matter movement.

Of course, local reporters have been so busy repeating Kirkpatrick’s talking points that they’ve done no investigation into how she is able to afford a top-flight public relations consultant like Singer, who is usually found in the company of embarrassed billionaires, union-busters and environment-ravaging corporations. Kirkpatrick’s wealth reserves are unknown, but if her past conflict of interest statements are to be believed, she owns no local property and has no investments. Kirkpatrick has only ever claimed a 200$ Beretta, a gift from the Orlando Police Dept, in her 700s.

Kirkpatrick’s retention of Singer hasn’t just been for a day or two, either—his efforts on Kirkpatrick’s behalf and against Oakland’s oversight bodies have continued for weeks now, and culminated in a press conference Monday to announce a potential lawsuit brought by her new lawyer, Jonathan Keker. As some insight into how much it must cost to hire Keker, he’s defended both Enron and Citibank from white collar crime charges. It would be surprising if the Oakland Police Officer’s Association or an allied organization isn’t footing Singer’s bill for their own benefit and agenda, but with local media’s obvious disinterest in this area of investigation, we may never know. 

As the Public Safety Committee debates the content of a possible Police Commission strengthening measure proposed by CM Rebecca Kaplan earlier this year, Kirpatrick’s firing is creating a platform for an extra-political media-borne assault on the measure before it can even get to the ballot. And if the Measure does get to the ballot, it will likely be weakened by months of televised attacks that appear as news, not anti-Commission ads paid for by the OPOA.

Below are some of the misleading and often untrue talking points local media have circulated on behalf of Kirkpatrick, and the truth behind them:



Commission and Monitor’s Meddling in “Use of Force Reporting” Caused Delays in Emergency Response

This contention cycled into an East Bay Times story after the first Police Commission meeting following Kirkpatrick’s dismissal. The evidence that it was planted by Singer is compelling. Several OPD employees came to the meeting and publicly blamed the Commission for the reporting requirements and their supposed response delays. Though the Commission would subsequently address the delays in the meeting, the issue wasn’t on the agenda and was introduced as an emergency item by OPD an hour later. The EBT story claimed the reporting requirements supposedly responsible for backlogs in emergency response were compelled by the Federal Monitor, Robert Warshaw. The EBT story also quoted one of the OPD employees, Helena Wong, as a simple Oakland resident concerned about response times. There was also the implication in several instances that the Commission had a role in creating the changes, as well.



The EBT story was reposted by pro-police blogs and accounts and presented as the obvious outcome of civilian meddling. Certainly, the main attraction from OPD-boosters for the piece is EBT’s assertion that the changes were prompted by the Monitor, and that they emerged through a Police Commission led process. But neither is true.


Though the Commission did aid Kirpatrick’s OPD in creating new use of Force Policy Reporting, the changes that caused the delays were neither sought by, nor directed by, the Commission—and they weren’t directly forced by the Monitor, either. Rather, these exact specific changes were sought by Kirkpatrick herself, doing damage control after an internal OPD investigation that found that OPD were, as Warshaw suspected, under-reporting use of force. That the entirety of the use of force reporting changes were likely a performative vehicle to show openness to oversight is worth mentioning because it reveals much about Kirkpatrick’s style and bolsters the Monitor’s critiques of her narrative-focused leadership.

The Monitor is clear on the fact that OPD found the reporting failures and then endeavored to change them—in his 63rd report, Warshaw notes:

“As noted in our earlier reports, our review of a sample of arrests found significant evidence that use of force were not being accurately reported. The finding was initially met with resistance but ultimately lead the Department to conduct its own analysis of reporting of the use of force, as well as compliance with the Department’s PDRD video recording policy. That exercise in self-analysis came to the indisputable conclusion that the problems were even more extensive than we discovered. Whether induced by the Court, the Monitoring Team, or self-initiated, OIG is to be commended for the quality of its report.”

The IG made recommendations and Kirkpatrick claimed that her department would implement them with new guidelines and procedures. Even the OPOA’s President Barry Donelan, publicly supported changes, saying “I encourage them to quickly move forward to fix [the policy].” Kirkpatrick brought a complete draft of changes to the Police Commission, asking for guidance and passage from the Commission.

When Kirkpatrick brought her first draft to the Commission in April, 2019 asking for collaboration, it already contained the policy that led to the reported delays—the creation of the “Type 32” reporting category. The text of “Type 32” reads exactly the same in the first draft presented to the Commission in April as the meeting where the final revisions to the use of force reporting policy were passed at Commission in October.



It appears that the Commission focused most of their suggested changes on descriptions and definitions of drawing firearms—the reporting area that had received the most attention from the monitor and the IG, as well as concern from the public. But they apparently focused little attention on Type 32.

During the presentation on the need for use of force changes at the most recent Police Commission meeting, Deputy Chief Leronne Armstrong took full responsibility for the changes, and he explained the reason for their failure in great detail. Armstrong claimed that the changes were envisioned by the OPD without a full understanding of the clash between OPD analog and digital reporting processes.

All the failures belonged to OPD under Kirkpatrick. Kirkpatrick’s OPD released under-counts for use of force reports. Kirkpatrick’s fix for that issue created the poorly conceived changes responsible for the supposed backlog. What should have been reported as a disastrous failure by Kirkpatrick, ironically emerging as she left her job in disgrace, was inscrutably reported as a core example of how oversight had ruined OPD and how Kirkpatrick had been fired unjustly by a power-mad Commission run amok.


An Internal Report Recently Made Public Backs Kirkpatrick’s Assertion that Police Commissioner Harris Had Conflict With the Chief

This claim appeared so consistently in news reporting after Kirkpatrick hired Sam Singer that it can only be seen as a product of his work. The “documents” are contract documents from a private contractor Public Interest Investigations, hired by City Administrator Sabrina Landreth to investigate accusations against Police Commissioner Harris. They show nothing other than the City Administrator spent 50k in public money to investigate Harris [and she perhaps did so illegally].

The documents were released through a public records request by the City of Oakland in January [a request made by this reporter]. There are two documents: one is a contract with Public Interest Investigations, the contractor hired to investigate Harris. The contract itself is worth noting, because it is open-ended for general services and has a cap of $49,999. After that contract was written, the City would be able to ask PII to do anything for the 50k.

The other document is PII’s scope of work document, written by the firm’s director Keith Rohman, seeking confirmation that allegations against Harris—including the one by Kirkpatrick—would be included in the investigation. The section is sub-titled “allegations which could be investigated” so obviously no investigation of any kind had been conducted. Rohman even writes here that he declined to conduct a pre-investigation. This is the sum total of the documents the media used to bolster Kirkpatrick’s claims—the contract itself and the scope of work communique.

The San Francisco Chronicle implied the “report” alleging the towing fee accusation was “completed.” The EBT called the same document an “internal document” that states that Harris attempted to extort Kirkpatrick. KTVU referred to the document as an “internal confidential memo.” KRON, perhaps the most irresponsible, wrote  “According to an internal memo, Oakland Police Commissioner Ginale Harris demanded she be reimbursed for towing fees.” The list actually goes on.


There Was “No Love Lost” Between Kirkpatrick and Harris

No one can read minds or hearts, but the historical record of Harris and Kirkpatrick’s feelings toward one another remains sparse. There’s evidence in the public record, however, that Kirkpatrick took several opportunities to malign Harris and accuse her of malfeasance.

Pointing media at a questionable document to recirculate her unsupported allegation about towing against Harris reveals much about Kirkpatrick. And it wasn’t the first or last time Kirkpatrick would use her position to try to smear Harris. Newly released email documents show Kirkpatrick rushing to make questionable accusations against Harris public and a matter of City of Oakland investigation. After OPD Internal Affairs received an anonymous complaint about an incident at Harris’ son’s school in November, 2019, Kirkpatrick sought to alert as many high ranking Oakland officials as possible about it—even though neither the IA nor any other agency except Ethics [and possibly the City Auditor] has a role in investigating a Police Commissioner.

The actions of Kirkpatrick and members of her Internal Affairs Dept. around this incident are worth examining. Officer Theodore Jew at IA claims to have received the anonymous call making the allegation at 1pm. By 3pm, he’d written a report and sent it to his supervisor, Sekou Millington. Millington sent it to Kirkpatrick by 4:44 pm. And Kirkpatrick had emailed it to City Administrator, City Auditor, City Attorney, and the Ethics Commision less than half an hour later at 5:12.





According to Kirkpatrick’s email, by then she had already somehow acquired the SFPD police incident report from the previous day. Kirkpatrick clearly prioritized an extremely thin tip on Harris. She apparently authorized that sharp focus on Harris from IA, as well, rather than reprimanding Jew and Millington for elevating it above other work. Within 25 hours of this minor incident, anti-Harris claims about it were in the hands of every major City official but the Mayor, and within a few days, the accusation was in the hands of Phil Matier, a gossip columnist at the San Francisco Chronicle.

Matier had also been provided the SFPD police report—which had still only been shared internally in Oakland. Matier based his article—which portrayed Harris as an instigator—completely on the police report. By the time Matier published his piece, on December 1, Jew and the City Attorney, which was acting as OPD’s lawyer throughout the affair, had already been notified by the Ethics Commission that there were discrepancies in the story. Despite, or perhaps because, of this, Matier went ahead with his piece.


Just days before Kirkpatrick was fired, the Ethics Commission issued a report that found the accusation to be baseless. Kirkpatrick’s behavior seems anything but measured or careful here—she rushed to put an unverified, anonymous accusation in the hands of any city body that might independently investigate it, with no concern for the impact on the reputation or well-being of Harris. It seems clear that it was Kirkpatrick who had a problem with Harris—and she used her position to do something about it—not the other way around.


A final note about the way a PR firm operates. While Singers allegations and deflections may seem comical to people who watch the issue carefully, these end up in the text of local papers of record and television news. Writers or editors see PR consultants as colleagues and/or as labor-saving sources of daily news-copy.

That would be bad enough. Accusations when repeated often enough enter the public consciousness as intuition rather than fact. But the more worrisome aspect may be what such a focus prevents local media from actually reporting on. Two weeks after Kirkpatrick’s firing, we have no longform reporting on her recent leadership and no reporting on some of the unethical [and possibly illegal] acts she may have been involved in, noted above. We still don’t know who is paying for Singer and Keker. We don’t know who called Matier, or where the anonymous call to OPD IA came from. We don’t know whether or not its legal for the City Administrator to investigate a member of the Police Commission, under what conditions. We don’t know how Mayor Schaaf became involved in the firing the Chief, or how support for firing broke along Mayoral appointee vs community appointee lines—and the presence of Mayoral appointees on the Commission was previously an important split in community support for the new ballot measure.

Despite how easily disprovable and often offensively silly these efforts are, they do move the window.


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