Inside a federal courtroom this afternoon, the City of Oakland’s mayor and police chief reaffirmed their commitment to establishing a culture of accountability within the city’s troubled department. But after the hearing, Chief Anne Kirkpatrick told reporters that the commanders who mishandled last year’s internal sex-crimes investigation would still be receiving promotions.
In fact, when asked directly by the Express whether John Lois and Roland Holmgren would still be promoted, Kirkpatrick justified the move, saying that federal-court monitor Robert Warshaw himself signed off on the decision.
“When I made my selections, I did counsel with the federal monitor, and he indicated he was very pleased,” Kirkpatrick said.
Although Warshaw approved the promotions of Lois and Holmgren to the ranks of assistant chief and captain, respectively, it’s impossible that he knew of Lois and Holmgren’s role in the mishandling of the Guap case: When their promotions were announced on May 1, the court’s special investigation into the case wasn’t even completed yet, and its contents were a closely held secret until published on June 21. Not even Warshaw knew what was going to be in the report.
Warshaw didn’t return the Express’ phone call and text message seeking to discuss Kirkpatrick’s claim.
However, when asked this afternoon whether Warshaw was aware of attorneys Edward Swanson and Audrey Barron’s findings when he allegedly approved the promotions, Kirkpatrick responded that she was “sure the federal monitor has that information.”
The report, which was finally released last month, found that top OPD commanders and several higher-ranking officers prematurely closed the Celeste Guap case, and took other steps that were characterized as “wholly inadequate.”
The names of the officers involved in the cover-up were redacted in the report, but the Express independently identified and confirmed the individuals.
During the Guap case in 2015, Lois was deputy chief, overseeing the Bureau of Investigations, and Holmgren was the lieutenant overseeing the homicide division. Along with Capt. Kirk Coleman of the criminal-investigation division, they were the three most-senior personnel overseeing the sex-crime allegations. Their failings to sufficiently investigate officer wrongdoing were exhaustively documented in the Swanson-Barron report.
On May 2, Kirkpatrick announced the promotion of Lois to assistant chief, the second-highest post in the department. Holmgren was promoted to captain, overseeing the criminal-investigation division. And Coleman was transferred to internal affairs, where he now supervises all investigations of police misconduct.
Attorneys John Burris and Jim Chanin argued the case that led to the department’s court-oversight program. This afternoon, they told U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson that they want to see every individual cited in the Swanson-Barron report disciplined.
“I was under the illusion that the sex scandal was largely confined to the officers who committed unlawful acts and Chief Whent,” Chanin said in his statement to the court. “I now see, sadly, that what happened here was an OPD and City of Oakland system failure that went way beyond Chief Whent and the officers who engaged in crimes.”
“It may well have permeated everyone associated with the case, especially many of OPD’s command staff,” Chanin stated.
After the hearing, Burris told reporters that, if the commanders who derailed the Guap investigation are not demoted and held accountable, the impact will ripple throughout the department. “It will send a bad message, and young officers will not have confidence in the leadership,” Burris said.
Oakland Deputy City Attorney Kimberly Bliss told the court that the city is “committed to a probing analysis of the failings identified in the report.” She said the police department will carry out a “critical incident review,” which will include all the officers referred to in the Swanson-Barron report. She said this process will result in “corrective action” and “counseling.”
But the city held back from saying they would seek discipline against the officers and department leaders.
Bliss added that the police department’s critical-incident report would include the names of all the officers mentioned in the Swanson-Barron report, but that their identities will be withheld from the public.
The Oakland Police Department’s Public Information Officer Johnna Watson called the Express this afternoon to say that Kirkpatrick’s remarks about promoting Lois and Holmgren were taken out of context and that she hadn’t heard the full question. But Watson declined to allow the Express to interview Kirkpatrick a second time to let her clarify her remarks about Warshaw’s approval of the promotions.
Judge Henderson is expected to issue an order in the case in the next several days. But during his comments this afternoon, he appeared to signal that he won’t impose the harshest penalties sought against the city, including putting its police department into receivership, or slapping city officials with contempt or monetary sanctions.
Henderson retires on August 11. He’s turning the case over to Judge William H. Orrick III, who was in the courtroom observing today’s proceedings.
Lois and Holmgren are among the officers who will be honored at an upcoming promotion ceremony at Oakland’s Scottish Rite Center.