[jump] Kirkpatrick led the police departments of the small towns of Federal Way and Ellensburg, Washington, early in her career.
She was chief in Spokane, Washington, from 2006 to 2012, and second in command in the King County Sheriff’s Office from 2012 to 2014.
When she retired from Spokane, some questioned whether that department’s turmoil spurred her decision to leave.
Six months before she took over in Spokane, an officer beat a man to death. The officer was later found guilty of civil rights violations. The department was said to have engaged in a cover-up, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Kirkpatrick said she knew when she agreed to lead the Spokane police that she was “inheriting a storm.”
She was later accused of overzealously punishing a Spokane detective who allegedly threatened to kill his wife. The detective sued the department and Kirkpatrick, winning a jury trial and $722,000.
After retiring from Spokane, Kirkpatrick worked as an instructor with the FBI’s Law Enforcement Executive Development Association, which instructs officials in “the science and art of law enforcement leadership.”
But she has long sought to run a major city’s police department. She previously applied to be police chief in Seattle, San Francisco, Phoenix, and Chicago.
Instead of picking her to lead the Chicago PD, Mayor Rahm Emaneul picked department insider, Eddie Johnson. But Johnson subsequently selected Kirkpatrick to lead reform efforts in the Windy City. Chicago was rocked by several scandals in recent years, including the police killing of Laquan McDonald, which was followed up by a coverup and refusal by police and city officials to release video evidence of the slaying.
Kirkpatrick’s role in Chicago included implementing the reforms that a U.S. Justice Department team recommended following the McDonald killing. She is familiar with Oakland’s situation: a department under watch by a federal judge, a long list of mandatory reforms, a rift between the police and the communities they serve.
When she applied for the job of Chicago police chief, she answered a list of questions that provides some insight into her policing philosophies.
She wrote that, at times, it’s important to terminate problem officers in order to maintain the integrity of a department, and that police agencies should use data-driven, early warning systems to track officer misconduct.
Oakland has had trouble disciplining and firing bad cops in recent years. But the department was also a pioneer of databases and analytic tools used to monitor officer behavior.
Kirkpatrick also praised the tough-on-crime tactic known as the “broken windows theory,” which was used by William Bratton in New York and Los Angeles to crack down on misdemeanor, quality of life crimes in the name of public safety. Critics of broken windows theory say it promotes racial profiling and crackdowns on the poor that lead to more police misconduct while not actually reducing crime.
“We know Broken Windows and Compstat work,” she wrote.
At the same time, Kirkpatrick also wrote: “There are some very innovative approaches to crime fighting that include partnering with social services to get low level drug offenders and prostitutes into social services versus jail. I also think that law enforcement should approach crime fighting by helping to reintegrate ex-offenders back into our communities.”
What she will do in Oakland, and whether she can reform one of America’s most troubled police departments, remains to be seen.