OAKLAND -- The chief of the Oakland schools police department has retired after a formal complaint that he directed racial slurs against an African-American sergeant after a charity golf event last month.
Pete Sarna II, 41, submitted a letter to the school district's legal department Wednesday announcing his immediate retirement, said Troy Flint, spokesman for the Oakland Unified School District.
Sarna, a former Oakland police officer who has been the schools police chief for two years, has been on administrative leave since Aug. 4, when the formal complaint was filed. His retirement brings to a close an investigation that only surfaced publicly on Monday.
Sarna, who is white, attended the charity golf tournament at the Sequoyah County Club in Oakland on July 18 with two other sergeants from his department, one who is African-American and one who is white. The white sergeant, who filed the complaint, is represented by San Francisco attorney Joe O'Sullivan.
Because the men were drinking alcohol during the Sequoyah event, an officer was called to drive the trio to their homes.
According to O'Sullivan, on the drive to Orinda, where the African-American sergeant lives, Sarna called the African-American sergeant a racial slur "several times, told him that he had no right to live in (the area) because he's African-American, although he didn't use that word, told him he should be hung in the town square because he's African-American ... told him that he would be the last African-American he'd ever hire."
O'Sullivan said Sarna later approached the African-American officer and told him "that thing that happened never happened." The names of the officers involved in the incident were not released.
In his letter to school board President Gary Yee, Sarna said, "I am deeply sorry for the pain my actions have caused."
"My words hurt not only those who heard them but also the entire community I have tried to serve as police chief of the Oakland Unified School District," Sarna said. "I make no excuses for my behavior and no explanations. There simply is no excuse for the hurtful words I used and no explanation for behavior so at odds with whom I believe myself to be."
His lawyer, Alison Berry Wilkinson, said Sarna "is sorry that his alcohol problem has inflicted pain on so many different people."
Sarna joined the Oakland Police Department in 1991. He was a lieutenant when he was tapped by then-Attorney General Jerry Brown in 2006 to be deputy director of the state Department of Justice Division of Law Enforcement. Sarna resigned in August 2007 after he crashed his state vehicle in Walnut Creek and was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence.
The retirement means Sarna can never again work for Oakland police, Oakland schools police or any branch of Oakland city government, Flint said. When he turns 50, Sarna will earn a pension on the 18 years he worked in Oakland law enforcement.
"Now that he's retired, he's capped his pension. That has a finality to it. A resignation has different implications (than retirement)," Flint said.
Messages left at Sarna's home and on his mobile phone were not returned. On Monday, Sarna's wife, who is African-American, answered the phone at their home and said the family would have no comment on the allegations.
Flint called Sarna an innovative leader who went beyond the reactionary basics of the job to incorporate strategic approaches to crime prevention. He said Sarna was the force behind a new summer camp in West Oakland. Sarna gathered hundreds of volunteers and donations to build a play structure with a slide, rock climbing wall, and basketball court and kickball field. His father, Peter Sarna Sr., was a former captain in the Oakland Police Department.
Flint said the schools police will be run by sergeants while the district searches for a new chief.