A nine-member jury found that former Oakland, Ca., Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick was fired in retaliation for sounding the alarm on corruption within the civilian police commission, reports Courthouse News Service. The outcome hinged on the jury’s answer to two questions: whether the city of Oakland unlawfully terminated her for disclosing conduct she had reasonable cause to believe is unlawful, and whether the city violated her free speech rights by terminating her in retaliation for making reports on a matter of public concern. On Thursday, the jury answered “yes” to the first, and “no” to the second. “We thought she was speaking in her capacity as chief,” said juror Madison Jewel, “We thought there was evidence that retaliation played some role in her discharge, which was why we found it was unlawful.”
The jury found that the city did not prove by clear and convincing evidence that it would have fired her anyway for legitimate, independent reasons even if she never made the reports. The jury awarded Kirkpatrick $337,635 in economic and emotional damages. Kirkpatrick’s reports involved three emails sent to the Oakland city auditor, the mayor, and the city attorney’s office about incidents where Kirkpatrick believed commissioners were trying to use their positions on the commission to get private benefit. Kirkpatrick was fired on Feb. 20, 2020 after the seven-member civilian commission asked the mayor to join them in terminating her without cause. “The chief has been vindicated. We said all along that she was retaliated against and the jury agreed,” said her attorney, James Slaughter.