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Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao Appoints Floyd Mitchell as New Police Chief

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A headshot of a Black male police officer.
Floyd Mitchell will be Oakland's new police chief, Mayor Sheng Thao Thao announced Friday. He most recently served as police chief of Lubbock, Texas. (Courtesy of Lubbock Police Department)

Updated 2:45 p.m. Friday

Mayor Sheng Thao on Friday morning announced the selection of Floyd Mitchell as Oakland’s new police chief, ending more than a year-long search for the top cop in a city that has struggled to control a sharp rise in crime.

Mitchell, who most recently served as the first Black police chief of the city of Lubbock, Texas, will take over a department that has been without a permanent leader since Thao fired former Chief LeRonne Armstrong 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 on Friday. “His commitment to proven crime-reduction strategies include proactive policing, and the most important part is the strong officer community engagement.”

Mitchell was one of four candidates presented to the mayor last month by the Oakland Police Commission following a long and often contentious search process. The Commission originally presented Thao with a group of three other candidates — including the fired Armstrong — that she rejected.

Among the second group of candidates, two finalists, including Mitchell, sat for long one-on-one interviews with the mayor.

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Thao said Mitchell’s track record on crime reduction in Texas “vaulted him to the top of the list.”

Mitchell will take over the department between late April and early May, the mayor’s office said.

A veteran of the U.S. Air Force, Mitchell began his policing career in Kansas City, Missouri, where he served as an officer for 25 years. He later became police chief of the city of Temple, Texas. In 2019, he took the top post in Lubbock, heading the city’s police department until he resigned in September 2023.

According to data released by the mayor’s office, Lubbock, which has a population of 260,000, saw overall crime decrease by about 5% in 2020 and 2021 before rising by about 7%. In the smaller town of Temple, the office said, crime fell each year he was chief.

“I want to work to get up to speed as quickly as I possibly can with each individual bureau of operation and their responsibility, so I can help them move forward,” Mitchell said at a recent community meeting with the four police chief candidates.

“I think it’s vitally important to get feedback from the officers that have boots on the ground and determine from them where we excel and where we can do better work to address crime and quality of life issues.”

Mitchell comes to the department just over a year after Thao fired former Chief Armstrong following allegations that, under his watch, the department had failed to properly investigate two misconduct charges against a sergeant who was accused of a hit-and-run and of discharging a firearm in an elevator at police department headquarters.

Armstrong has since appealed his termination and filed a lawsuit against Thao and the city of Oakland.

“Public safety is the most important issue in Oakland. We have a dedicated police force that now has a new leader. I send my best wishes to Floyd Mitchell and offer any assistance he may desire,” Armstrong said in a statement. “This is my hometown. I want everyone to be safe and will do everything in my power, now as a private citizen, to assist in that goal.”

Critics of the mayor’s response to rising crime and to the lengthy search for a new police chief raised additional concerns about Mitchell’s record in Texas.

Former Alameda Superior Court Judge Brenda Harbin-Forte pointed to reports that the Lubbock Police Department abandoned more than 30,000 911 calls in 2022, double the amount from 2020, under Mitchell’s leadership.

“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 told KQED. “I hope he will be able to get up to speed and get Oakland up to speed on this.”

Mitchell told the San Francisco Chronicle he stepped down after his decisions in Lubbock were met with resistance.

Thao defended Mitchell’s record and her decision when asked about the 911 call response times in Lubbock.

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“I asked Chief Mitchell directly about my concerns around the 911 calls. And to be quite honest, I was pretty impressed with his response,” Thao told KQED. “He didn’t make any excuses about the situation, but instead he really talked about what he learned from the experience and how he can bring that to the city of Oakland.”

He will also step into the office as Oakland faces an uptick in violent crime, along with intensified calls from the public for stronger safety measures. The department is also currently tasked with completing a set of reforms mandated by federal courts to address its troubled history with police brutality.

Cat Brooks, co-founder of the Oakland-based Anti Police-Terror Project, said she was concerned that the department’s new leadership could encourage a shift toward more aggressive policing tactics that would disproportionately impact Oakland’s Black community.

“I’m concerned that might be a move he makes to quell the more conservative, carceral voices that have gotten louder in Oakland,” Brooks said, referring to calls by some residents to prioritize arrests over community-based alternatives to policing.

But Marsha Carpenter Peterson, chair of the Oakland Police Commission, said in a statement that her oversight body had found “only the most qualified candidates” for the mayor to consider.

“We look forward to working closely with Chief Mitchell to achieve the constitutional policing and reforms required to ensure fairness and justice for all the residents of Oakland,” she said.

Mitchell joins a department with a strikingly turbulent history that has churned through its top brass in recent years. Since 2005, 12 permanent and interim chiefs have come and gone, including two who were fired and one who was forced to resign after just six days on the job.

Sgt. Huy Nguyen, president of the Oakland Police Officers’ Association, said his union was relieved that the department finally had a new permanent leader after more than a year of uncertainty.

“Oakland’s diligent police officers eagerly anticipate collaborating with Chief Mitchell in serving our community,” he said in a statement. “Despite challenges, our dedicated Oakland police officers continue to show up daily to serve our city’s residents.”

KQED reporter Juan Carlos Lara contributed to this story.

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