Oakland police Sgt. Derwin Longmire sues city
By Kelly Rayburn, The Oakland Tribune
SAN FRANCISCO — Oakland police Sgt. Derwin Longmire, the former homicide detective who led the highly criticized investigation of journalist Chauncey Bailey’s 2007 death, filed a lawsuit against the city Wednesday, claiming police commanders tarnished his reputation.
“I want to restore my good name,” Longmire said. “My reputation has been slandered and very nearly destroyed. And I need an opportunity, a venue, in which to speak the truth.”
The federal lawsuit filed in San Francisco claims the department undertook a biased internal investigation to “confirm” the beliefs of Assistant Chief Howard Jordan and Acting Capt. Sean Whent, head of the Internal Affairs Division, that Longmire “compromised the Bailey investigation.” It further claims a California Department of Justice investigation also was biased in part because it relied on Jordan and Whent to provide background information.
The department hampered Longmire’s ability to defend his name by imposing a gag order that prevented him from discussing the Bailey case, while at the same time leaks from within the organization damaged Longmire’s reputation, the lawsuit claims.
“I live every day with the shadow of this hanging over me,” Longmire said.
The lawsuit asks for unspecified monetary damages and for other relief to help repair what Longmire and his attorney, John Scott, said is unwarranted damage to his reputation.
Alex Katz, a spokesman for City Attorney John Russo, said Russo’s office wouldn’t comment for this story because it has not reviewed the lawsuit. Officer Jeff Thomason, the Police Department’s spokesman, said the allegations would be investigated.
“Right now, we don’t have a specific comment about these allegations,” Thomason said. “Any lawsuit filed against the Oakland Police Department automatically turns into an Internal Affairs investigation, and under law we cannot comment about an Internal Affairs investigation.”
Thomason said an outside investigator would do the work because the complaint involves Whent’s actions.
“The public needs to know that any Internal Affairs complaint is taken seriously and will be investigated,” Thomason said.
The lawsuit mentions only the city, Jordan and Whent by name as defendants, but Scott said the San Francisco Chronicle and The Chauncey Bailey Project, whose stories were published in the Oakland Tribune and Contra Costa Times among other newspapers, also were responsible for hurting Longmire’s reputation.
Robert Rosenthal, the Chauncey Bailey Project’s executive editor, declined to address Scott’s comments, but said, “The Chauncey Bailey Project stands by its work. The story was an important one to be told.”
Longmire was placed on paid administrative leave in April 2009, and the department subsequently moved to fire him on allegations of compromising the Bailey investigation and of insubordination.
The department ultimately sent Longmire back to work after a disciplinary hearing that did not go well for the city, department sources familiar with the matter said.
Longmire is working as a sergeant in the patrol division, where he was transferred from homicide before he was put on leave. He still is facing the possibility of significantly lesser discipline on matters unrelated to the Bailey case, but he and Scott declined to discuss those issues Wednesday.
Bailey was editor of the Oakland Post when he was shot to death Aug. 2, 2007.
The day after Bailey’s slaying, police raided Your Black Muslim Bakery on warrants from a separate investigation. They found the shotgun used to kill Bailey, and, hours later, Longmire let former bakery CEO Yusuf Bey IV and bakery handyman Devaughndre Broussard, both of whom were in custody, have a seven-minute, unrecorded conversation.
Broussard then confessed to killing Bailey but later recanted. Broussard ultimately admitted to prosecutors in April 2009 that he killed Bailey but said he was ordered to do so by Bey IV.
The Alameda County District Attorney’s Office is now charging Bey IV and Antoine Mackey, a bakery associate, with Bailey’s slaying, as well as two other killings.
Longmire came under fire from critics for having too close of a relationship to Bey IV as he investigated Bailey’s death. The two had numerous telephone conversations while Bey IV was in jail, including calls that were left out of Longmire’s case notes.
Jordan, who served as acting police chief from March 1 until Oct. 19 last year, said after Longmire was put on leave that, in hindsight, Longmire was not the right person for the case.
“I thought he was able to separate his relationship with the bakery and do his job,” Jordan said April 30. “And I’m not sure about that right now.”
Scott said the evidence against Longmire was utterly flimsy. Scott wore a clip-on bow tie at a news conference, mocking a statement Jordan made to the state investigators suggesting some people drew inferences about Longmire based on the fact he would sometimes wear a bow tie — a piece of neckwear favored by Your Black Muslim Bakery.
The lawsuit noted that Longmire is Christian, not Muslim. When asked, Longmire said Bailey’s family “can feel confident the investigation was done well. And that the outcome — the proper outcome — will come to pass.”