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Scandal-tainted Oakland police department gets new chief

By Curtis Skinner

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Oakland, California, on Wednesday named a high-ranking Chicago law enforcement official as the first woman to head its police department, which has been rocked by a sex abuse scandal and slammed by the mayor for its "toxic" and "macho" culture.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf told a news conference she appointed Anne Kirkpatrick to lead the department, saying residents "wanted a leader with integrity able to change culture. Someone who would deliver on fair and just policing, prevent violence, and increase accountability.".

Three Oakland police chiefs resigned in quick succession after the East Bay Express newspaper reported last June that numerous officers in Oakland and elsewhere sexually exploited a teenage sex worker.

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Schaaf said at the time the city was "hell-bent on rooting out this disgusting culture," which she described as "toxic" and "macho."

The Alameda County District Attorney said in September that seven former and current officers in Oakland and other Bay Area jurisdictions would be charged with crimes including oral copulation with a minor, engaging in prostitution, and unauthorized use of law enforcement databases.

Kirkpatrick, a former police chief in Spokane, Washington, was named in June as chief of the Bureau of Organizational Development in Chicago under Mayor Rahm Emanuel's plan to overhaul the police department, which is under federal investigation.

She received that role after having been a finalist for the top job in Chicago of police superintendent. Emanuel fired the previous superintendent amid outrage over allegations that both the city and police department covered up the videotaped police killing of a black teen.

Kirkpatrick, who has worked in law enforcement for 34 years will take up her role as police chief in late February, the city said.

Oakland's announcement came two weeks after neighboring San Francisco announced the appointment of a new police chief.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee reluctantly pressured the former top police official to resign last May in response to protests over police killings of unarmed African-Americans, as well as racist text-messaging scandals.

The U.S. Department of Justice is conducting a review of the San Francisco Police Department in coordination with police and city officials. Reviewers in October released a report outlining deficiencies it found within the department, including apparent racial bias in traffic stops, searches and killings.

A wave of anti-police protests since the 2014 killing of an unarmed black teen in Ferguson, Missouri, has created strains at law enforcement agencies across the United States, forcing out some police chiefs and top prosecutors.

(Reporting by Curtis Skinner in San Francisco; Editing by Daniel Trotta and Peter Cooney)

 
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