OAKLAND — After a year serving on the job, interim Oakland police chief Sean Whent became the department’s permanent chief Wednesday.
Mayor Jean Quan officially swore in Whent, 39, after a nationwide search. He becomes Oakland police’s fourth permanent chief since 2009.
An 18-year-veteran, Whent became interim chief last May as part of a major management shake-up of the beleaguered department. He took over from acting chief Anthony Toribio, who stepped down and assumed the rank of captain less than 48 hours after replacing then-Chief Howard Jordan, who retired.
The low-key Whent, who served in the department’s internal affairs division before taking over as interim chief, isn’t popular with some rank-and-file officers, but violent crime and homicides have dropped about 30 percent under his leadership in one of America’s most dangerous cities.
“The Department has turned the corner in so many areas and is making progress on many fronts. None of that progress would have been possible were it not for all of your hard work and dedication,” Whent told his department staff before he was sworn in. “I am tremendously honored to lead this organization forward, and I look forward to working with all of you. Stay safe.”
Whent also has received widespread praise, including from the department’s federal monitor overseeing still yet-to-be-completed court-ordered reforms stemming from a decade-old police brutality lawsuit settlement.
Attorney John Burris, one of two lawyers who represented the plaintiffs in the case and who is overseeing court reforms, said Wednesday Whent has earned his position as chief.
“He’s been a stabilizing force this past year. He’s made great strides and he’s had a strong working relationship with the monitoring team,” Burris said. “He’s thoughtful and has a balanced perspective on things.”
Barry Donelan, president of the Oakland police officers union, said Wednesday an air of uncertainty is over.
“The real question? Is the chief going to support the hard-working men and women of the Oakland Police Department who put their lives on the line for the citizens in our community?” Donelan said. “Only time will tell.”