Oakland mayor, facing sharp criticism, to seek second term
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Two years into a term in which Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf has faced sharp criticism for her handling of a police department sex scandal, the departure of three police chiefs and two deadly fires, the city’s top leader on Monday announced she will seek another term.
Schaaf, 51, became Oakland’s 50th mayor in 2015 after serving one term as a city council member and working as an aide to then-Mayor Jerry Brown before his return as governor.
Schaaf has faced repeated criticism about her handling of city and police department issues.
The Oakland Police Department was embroiled in a sex scandal involving an 18-year-old self-described sex worker who said she had sexual relationships with Oakland officers, including some when she was underage. Some officers were also investigated for sending racist text messages.
As critics called for her to step down, Schaaf denounced the department’s “toxic, macho culture” and vowed to root out bad officers.
The department then lost three police chiefs in nine days as Schaaf tried to fix problems in the long-troubled agency that has been monitored by a federal judge since a 2003 settlement in a civil rights case. Schaaf took the blame for not sufficiently vetting her first choice to lead the department through the turmoil.
Schaaf picked Oakland Deputy Chief Paul Figueroa as interim chief but he stepped down two days later for unknown reasons. Figueroa was then demoted to captain, and management of the department was turned over to the city administrator.
Schaaf then appointed Anne Kirkpatrick, who has led the troubled police department since January.
“Many of the crises of the last year revealed a need to strengthen the organization, and that’s part of the hard and unsexy work that we have been doing,” Schaaf told The Associated Press.
She said more work is needed to strengthen the community’s trust in police and that her administration has launched several plans that are now in motion. “I’m hoping for the opportunity to see those things through,” Schaaf added.
Most recently, Schaaf has faced fallout from two fires that together killed 40 people.
Oakland became the site of the deadliest U.S. structure fire in a decade when 36 people died in a December blaze at a warehouse known as the Ghost Ship that had been illegally converted into artist live-work spaces. At one vigil for victims, Schaaf was booed as she spoke.
Officials then vowed to crack down on substandard housing and conduct more inspections. But in March, a burning candle started a blaze in a three-story building for recovering addicts and people who had been homeless, just three days after city building inspectors found multiple fire code violations. Four people died.