Berkeley Police Chief Andrew Greenwood announced his retirement Thursday and said his last day at the department would be March 12.
Greenwood, a Berkeley native, has been at BPD for 35 years and became chief four years ago with a promise to make public trust his top priority.
“The time has come for me to focus on my family and our health, and give long overdue attention to our home,” he wrote in his brief retirement announcement, which he emailed to the department Thursday at 11:15 a.m.
Greenwood said Capt. Jen Louis will serve as interim chief, “effective immediately,” and has his “full support.” The city will conduct a national search for Greenwood’s replacement, according to a memo from the city manager that was posted Thursday.
A former attorney, Louis attended the Santa Clara University School of Law and was admitted to the bar in 1997 but no longer has an active license, according to state records.
Louis, a Bay Area native, has held many supervisory positions since she was hired by BPD in 1999. She was the sergeant of the Special Victims Unit, the commander of the Special Response Team, and the lieutenant for the field training program where new officers learn the ropes, among other roles. She became a captain at BPD in mid-2016 and has headed the Support Services Division since January 2018.
According to the city manager’s memo, Louis also “has experience in labor relations and contract negotiations with both sworn and professional staff, and recently led the Department’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
A tough time to be a police chief
Greenwood was thrust into the top position at BPD in September 2016 when former Chief Michael Meehan abruptly resigned. He served as interim chief until April 2017 when he was appointed by the City Council to the permanent post. There have been a number of changes and challenges at the Berkeley Police Department, and in policing nationally, amid Greenwood’s tenure.
He has held town halls to answer tough questions from the community about militarization and the policing of political protests. He saw the department through a staffing crisis and launched an array of recruitment efforts to swell the ranks.
“He entered this role in a time when the department was struggling. He brought stability and did it with purpose,” City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley said in her memo to council members Thursday. “He strengthened morale, improved focus on employee wellness and resilience, and sought hires and promotions that reflected the community’s values and diversity.”
In a statement Thursday, Mayor Jesse Arreguín said Police Chief Greenwood had “given his heart and soul to this department and to the community he has served.”
Arreguín continued: “I have gotten to know the Chief personally over the past five years, and was impressed by his management of very challenging events including a series of unpermitted events in 2017 organized by hate groups. Throughout this time, he handled these moments with professionalism and focus. He has provided stable leadership and has focused on increasing staffing and implementing groundbreaking reforms. He will be missed.”
During Greenwood’s time as chief, Berkeley police officers were finally outfitted with body cameras and the department worked with experts and academics to review racial disparities in its police stops.
In October 2020, well in advance of a state deadline to do so, the Berkeley Police Department began posting much more detailed information online about its traffic and pedestrian stops, a move the department says will help clarify the dynamics of these interactions.
Before the pandemic, Police Chief Greenwood also held frequent “coffee with the cop” events to make officers available to community members who might have questions for them. He has been a frequent attendee at countless city meetings related to policing and has spoken often about the importance of making the relationship between officers and the community stronger.
That has been important to him, at least in part, because Greenwood has lived and breathed Berkeley for his entire life. His parents still live in the home he grew up in, and his sister and her family live in town, too. He attended Jefferson, Franklin and King schools, and graduated from Berkeley High. He and his wife still live in Berkeley, and their sons attended Berkeley public schools.
Greenwood’s years leading the department have not been without criticism, however, particularly as calls for police reform have become louder in recent years. He survived an effort last year by then-Councilmember Cheryl Davila to censure and potentially remove him following remarks he made about how to handle violent protests.
Within the department, some officers have increasingly expressed frustration about what they have described as Greenwood’s resistance to delegating tasks, preferring to handle them himself to ensure they are done right. This has at times resulted in slower action. Some officers have also said they would like a chief who would push back harder in the face of community criticism aimed at policing.
But many at the department have also said they have no question Greenwood cares deeply and sincerely about both BPD and the broader community.
In his farewell email to the department Thursday, he expressed appreciation to his colleagues for their support over the years.
“Being part of the Berkeley Police Department is something I will always carry with me, to have been a part of our history and tradition at BPD, and I look forward to the future of BPD, and your tremendous accomplishments to come,” he wrote. “I’m proud of our collective accomplishments over the past years and consider myself lucky to have been a part of this organization, and to have had you all in my life.”