OAKLAND — Chief Wayne Tucker announced Tuesday he will resign from his position atop the troubled Oakland Police Department effective Feb. 28.
Tucker joined Mayor Ron Dellums in announcing his decision at a 9 a.m. news conference, just hours before four City Council members were scheduled to discuss plans for a no-confidence vote in his leadership, citing high crime and numerous investigations into the department.
Tucker returned the fire, saying he was walking away from the department over Dellums' objections largely because he was fed up with what he described as council members' "lip service" to public safety.
The resignation came as Oakland faces high crime rates and with the department plagued by scandals and under investigation by the FBI. The state Department of Justice also is investigating how the Police Department handled the 2007 killing of journalist Chauncey Bailey. And Tucker is the subject of a whistle-blower complaint filed in December, alleging he promoted the then-police union president in exchange for killing a no-confidence vote by rank-and-file officers.
Tucker said Tuesday he tried to resign several times in the past six months, but Dellums insisted he stay. He cited "irreconcilable differences" with the City Council in his decision to step down.
"Quite frankly, I've lost faith in the City Council for the city of Oakland to be able to manage their way through this business," he said.
The "lip service" comment was rebutted by Council President Jane Brunner (North Oakland), a frequent critic of Tucker, who was set to join Councilmembers Patricia Kernighan, Larry Reid and Desley Brooks in moving the council toward a no-confidence vote.
"I think that he was reacting to the fact that we were going to have a no-confidence vote," Brunner said. "I think this council is absolutely committed to public safety."
She credited Tucker for his work to reform the department in the wake of the Riders settlement, for establishing geographic-based policing and for his work on a new contract with the Oakland Police Officers Association. She said she didn't see enough crime-fighting.
"He did not roll up his sleeves and start moving on reducing crime in Oakland," Brunner said. "And we have a serious crime issue, and we felt like it is time to bring someone in who could help us do that."
Overall incidents of crime dipped by 4 percent in 2008 compared with 2007, police data show. But incidents of violent crime — which includes murder, felony assault, rape and robbery — rose in 2008 for the fourth straight year.
Dellums said he accepted Tucker's resignation with regret, calling the chief "loyal, communicative and dedicated to change."
"This is a person who has sat with me in absolute commitment to community policing, to geographic accountability, to making this Police Department the best police department possible," Dellums said.
Dellums did not discuss who might be a permanent replacement for Tucker except to say the new chief will have to be an "agent of change" dedicated to compliance with the Riders settlement, community-oriented and geographic-based policing, crime reduction, and enhancing the community's trust in the police force.
Tucker lambasted council members for criticizing his promotion last year of Capt. Edward Poulson to the head of the Internal Affairs Division despite Poulson's record of having interfered with an internal affairs investigation in 2000.
Investigators found Poulson ordered subordinate officers to lie about the beating of a drug suspect, Jerry Amaro, who later died of complications from broken ribs. The FBI began an investigation of the case last week, and Poulson was suspended without pay. No criminal charges were ever filed.
Tucker said council members were briefed about the Poulson case in 2003 and 2005. Investigators in 2000 wanted Poulson fired, but then-Chief Richard Word changed the disciplinary action to a two-week suspension.
Tucker said he knew of Poulson's record but considered him the best choice to head internal affairs.
"He was the most competent guy we had for IA," Tucker said. "He was a competent police administrator. I promoted him. He did extremely well."
Nonetheless, Tucker said he would have fired Poulson if presented with the case as Word was.
The findings should "have ended his career," Tucker said.
Brunner said she did not recall being briefed on the Poulson case but did not deny that it happened.
Kernighan called Tucker's promotion of Poulson "the last straw" in the need for change to the department's leadership.
Brunner said she was certain a vote of no-confidence in Tucker would have passed. Whether it would have or not, there were signs for months that Tucker might resign.
Tucker had met with Dellums and acting City Administrator Dan Lindheim numerous times over the past few months about the possibility of his stepping down.
Rumors spread quickly Monday morning that his resignation was imminent. Tucker told Lindheim he was prepared to resign because he believed it was in the best interest of the city, Lindheim said.
Lindheim met with Tucker at length twice Monday to try to persuade him to stay on board — as he had done in the past. And about 5 p.m. that day, Tucker told MediaNews he would not discuss whether he would resign in the near future.
He did not tell Dellums of his final decision until after Dellums delivered his State of the City address Monday night.
Tucker was appointed to the job in February 2005 by former Mayor Jerry Brown, whose support for Tucker was not as strong as Dellums' has been.
Brown told KTVU in an unaired 2006 interview that appointing Tucker chief was "the biggest mistake" in his term as mayor. Brown since has refused to discuss the comment.
Before coming to the Oakland department, Tucker had a 38-year career with the Alameda County Sheriff's Office before retiring in January 2005 as assistant sheriff.
The Oakland Police Officers Association issued a statement on Tucker's resignation, saying that while they have always had differences with the chief, in the past few months the relationship has been as good as it ever was.
"The city has a good opportunity to put a chief in place who hopefully can turn around the morale of this beaten-down police force," said Sgt. Dom Arotzarena, president of the police association.
Others are hoping to bring in an outsider to head the department, but Arotzarena said there are several candidates in the Police Department who could be promoted to the top job.
"I challenge city officials to publicly embrace and support our Police Department rather than criticizing it," Arotzarena said.
Bob Butler of The Chauncey Bailey Project and Roland De Wolk of KTVU contributed to this report.
of reaching 803 officers by end of 2008.
Source: Oakland Tribune archives,
Oakland Police Department