Oakland schools Police Chief Pete Sarna has been placed on administrative leave following a complaint that he used a racial slur during a nonschool sponsored charity event last month.
Oakland Unified School District spokesman Troy Flint confirmed that Sarna, who has been the schools chief for slightly more than two years, is on leave pending the results of an investigation into the incident.
Sources said the slur was allegedly uttered during a golf tournament at Sequoyah Country Club in Oakland that was attended by current and former law enforcement officers and civilians from multiple police departments.
"There was a formal complaint filed against him," Flint said, refusing to provide any more details.
Sarna's wife, who answered the phone at his home, said they wouldn't comment.
Sarna reports to Superintendent Tony Smith. He earned $121,000 last year as the top schools cop. Sergeants will fill in while Sarna is on leave, Flint said.
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 at Wade Johnson Park in West Oakland, adjacent to the schools police headquarters at the former Cole Middle School campus. Sarna gathered hundreds of volunteers and donations to build a play structure with a slide, rock climbing wall, and basketball court and kickball field. The department also recently launched a program to allow high school students to send anonymous crime tips via text message -- their favorite mode of communication.
"He worked to address some of the conditions outside of school that impact our students," Flint said.
Sarna was a lieutenant in the Oakland Police Department when he was tapped by then Attorney General Jerry Brown in December 2007 to become deputy director of the state Department of Justice Division of Law Enforcement, where he commanded a 1,300-strong force. But Sarna resigned in August 2007 after he crashed his state vehicle in Walnut Creek and was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence.
Sarna's father, Peter Sarna, Sr., was a former captain in the Oakland Police department.
Contact Cecily Burt at 510 208-6441. Follow her on Twitter.com/csburt.