New police chief of Oakland schools

Peter Sarna II, a former Oakland police lieutenant with close ties to Jerry Brown, has replaced Art Michel as the head of Oakland school district’s force.

Sarna served as deputy director of the California Department of Justice’s law enforcement division for several months under Brown in 2007. He stepped down after he was cited for drunken driving following a crash in Walnut Creek in August of that year.

A detailed bio on Sarna, provided by OUSD, doesn’t include that piece of information. You can read it here to learn more about his experience.

Tribune file photo

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • harlemmoon

    Oh, joy!
    What a wonderful role model for the children.
    Now pay attention kiddies: Drive drunk, have an accident and you, too, can have a marvelous law enforcement career at OUSD

    Now seriously, folks, is this the best we can do?

  • judy


    Did the new Supt. hire Mr. Sarna?

  • Katy Murphy

    I don’t believe so — at least, not officially, since Sarna started in June, before Smith’s first day.

  • Nextset

    Resume looks distinguished enough. He certainly has had experience with both Operations and Political Operations in Police work. He’s probably an outstanding choice for the (political) snakepit that is OUSD.

    As far as the DUI thing – get over it – You are hiring a Police Manager not Mother Theresa. A Simon Pure wouldn’t fit in in this job at OUSD. Those that think they want one, just visualize a Mormon OUSD Police Chief fitting in with the OUSD culture.

    Good luck to Sarna at his new post, he just might need it.

    Remember, this job requires the use of deadly force on a moment’s notice. And you have to hire, train and supervice a large team of armed personnel and make sure they are ready, willing and able to kill at a moment’s notice without hesitation. And do all the required paperwork too.

    Most people would rather work Piedmont Police Dept.

  • harlemmoon

    Tsk, tsk Nextset. “Get over” a DUI?
    Sarna’s profound lack of judgment speaks volumes about the man.
    An officer sworn to uphold the law gets into his car – clearly inebriated – and places himself and others at potentially fatal risk, and we should simply “get over” it? Lemme see, how many other laws laws should Sarna be allowed to, uh, drive through before we hold him accountable?
    Heaven forbid the guy’s had a little too much to drink before his school shift.
    Politics aside, this guy is a wreck (pun definitely intended) waiting to happen.

  • Judy

    Nextset: If you consider a DUI for a police officer who is supposed to uphold the law as something we should “get over”, then this speaks volumes of your own judgement.

  • Nextset

    Judy & Harlemmoon: DUI is a felony in Canada and many European countries. They take DUI seriously. We sure as hell don’t. And with good reason. I’m not but so sympathetic to drunks… I have had family nearly killed by drunk drivers and I’ve been to several DUI funerals. But I’ve also known a great many people before, during and after a DUI experience.

    So get over it.

    In this country, for better or worse, a single DUI in one’s lifetime does not disqualify one from either public life or law enforcement. It is a red flag for possible alcoholism (as in loss of control over one’s drinking and habitual intoxication). Presumably the hiring authority in this case decided the skillset of this candidate made him the man the wanted all things considered and I respect that decision because that was their job to make it, not mine.

    And another thing – you hire men with guns to kill people as required – don’t think you are going to be getting Simon Pures. The same thing goes for the Nurses, the Trauma ER staff (including physicians). Whole industries have issues with alcoholism. My reading suggests that 80% of our Nurses are adult daughters of alcoholics (themselves prone to marry alcoholics and have drinking issues themselves). I have had very close friends in the nursing field with these issues.

    And one of the reasons this country – which is not in Europe – treads water on DUI and Alcoholism issues is that this country is full of Indians and people of Native Indian decent. Not to mention the influx of Mexican-Indians being brought into the country by our government. In most CA cities the DUI lists ever day are dominated by Hispanic surnames. So no, we’re not going to do the “Off with their head” thing the British do for DUI. We do try to discourage the practice and I know cases of men in their very early 20s who went to State Prison when they got too many DUIs in a short period of time (after doing little or no county jail – suddenly it’s the big house…).

    Get a clue, you silly “educators”. Some of these problems come with the territory. If you want a Mormon Police Chief – get one. And don’t come complaining to me when you get the issues that go along with that (ever look at the sex crime stats for Salt Lake City?).

    Yes we could have found a Police Chief without a DUI. Well OUSD didn’t. I didn’t hire him, but he’s hired now and I presume the authority that did this had good reasons. And the resume is exactly the sort of background OUSD would have been pleased by. So standing around complaining about the man before he’s even been on the job is misplaced anger you should reserve for your Exs. Get over it.

    Wish him your best and expect the best.

  • one more

    Ah, what would this blog be without its daily dose of crazy in the comments?

  • TheTruthHurts

    Are you kidding me!?!

    I’m all for forgiveness, but why do we ALWAYS have to start with a strike against us??? Can’t Oakland or OUSD do better???

    He might be a great guy and a great chief, but I gotta believe there was an applicant without a DUI in the last 2 years. Is that how OUSD screens its van drivers I see around town? How many offenses before an applicant is disqualified?

    First a pot-smoking board member and now a drinking police chief. What next?

  • Nextset

    Like I said, I may not have hired him.. A DUI at his age represents a fundamental loss of control that doesn’t bode well. But.. This is OUSD, OUSD has priorities. This hire seems to have everything else they would want. I am not surprised that we have this result. And yes, I can live with it. Good luck to him.

    And while I am often over the top in making a point here – because many educators run around thinking theirs is the only possible opinion and need that in-your-face response to stop and think – You have to get it that your idealistic view of how things work isn’t real.

    No one should be surprised that these decisions are being made. The fact that readers are surprised reflects their own disconnection with the real world.

    We have a President who has admitted Cocaine and Pot use in College. This is not your father’s society anymore. Even without being a Socialist Chicago Machine candidate that would have been a deal killer in days gone by. And Oakland is not Salt Lake City or Mayberry USA either.

    As to the line that there “was an applicant without a DUI in the last 2 years…” well, probably not with the experience he has who was actually willing to work at OUSD at this level. No, not even close.

    And once again, when you are staffing emergency services, combat services (including litigation), entertainment, and other high energy high stress positions – don’t think you are ever dealing with Simon Pures. That is not reality. And always remember, some people are more equal than others!

    Brave New World.

  • harlemmoon

    A resume does not a professional make. The entirety of the person must be considered, particularly for a demanding job of this nature. His DUI should have disqualified him from consideration immediately.

    Reality is relative, Nextset. And in mine, life isn’t fraught with poor decisions, second-rate considerations and settling for the sake of settling.

  • Leroy

    Hi, I am a parent of a child at Roosevelt middle school and one at Fremont. I just saw this blog and don’t normally comment but I feel like I need to.

    I believe that obviously the district has done a background and there are certain requirements that must have been met if he was appointed. I’m sure that this was taken into consideration and there were more positives than negatives. He must bring a lot to the table that makes him stand out for the board to approve this. With all the liberal views our society has during these times, your really going to cast the first stone on someone who must have went through a horrible processes and reconciliation. I think we need to give this a rest. He and the district police as well as everyone working at the district will have a tough job ahead of them in keeping my kids safe as well as other parents.

    there seems to be a lot of positive changes going on at the district and I’m sure this is one of them….lets wait to see what the chief does to keep our KIDS SAFE!!

  • harlemmoon

    Uh, Leroy, safety IS actually the issue here. Your new school’s chief has shown a supreme inability to behave in a safe, responsible way. He got into his car drunk and placed at risk his life and that of each person he swerved by.
    That is an indefensible action. One that shows a complete lack of judgment. Why would you want your children to be policed by someone who has shown such contempt for the law, his life and all around him?

    And another thing, the board that you speak so highly of has shown itself to be utterly inept.

    I, like you, look forward to the day when the district moves in the right direction, but this ain’t it, Leroy

  • BLT

    Here’s an interesting part of the article about his arrest: “No one was injured in the crash, which heavily damaged the state car. Repair or totaling of his SUV may come at taxpayers’ expense.”

    I would like to know what happened here. He should have been required to reimburse the people of California for the replacement of the SUV — probably woth about $45k if it was totalled.

  • Nextset

    Harlemmoom: I wish I could agree with you. Maybe a long time ago I used to think the way you speak of in Post #13. And it’s been a long time.

    I’ve since learned that people are never so perfect and life is not so black and white.. And I think of things more black and white than a lot of people do still. Am I being unpredictable again?

    The more you traffic in violence, trauma care, combat, litigation, emergency services, and people working in split second decision making where you are basically allocating injury and damages along with the budget the more you are going to be dealing with not just alcoholism but other unpleasant coping mechanisms that are just there. I meant it when I said that Police Services and related industries are never populated by Simon Pures. There is nothing worse than a hypocritical person that turns on their Dr, Nurse, Lawyer, Judge, Cop, Soldier, Fireman, Ambulance Driver, etc. the minute they learn that they’re still human and not perfect. In this society I see that the workers are sold out in a minute when they’re old, used up or not shiny, new or lying to you the way you like it. To me that’s what this is all about here.

    Yes I don’t like the DUI history because I have handled these people for a lifetime and I know what it means statistically once you have had one. But I also know that the people who wipe your rear end and save your lives over and over on occasion are the same people who have had One DUI – even One DUI with an injury.

    So get over it.

    People are never as perfect as you want them to be but you still use them when they have what you need. I’m not surprised this candidate had what OUSD thinks they need – and he may well be the right person at the right time. I’ve never met the man and I can defend him easily in this instance. I could be off on this occasion, but I’m probably not. It’s all a matter of odds and stats to some degree.

    He probably should not speak out publicly about this situation. One of the Fords said once, “Never Complain, Never Explain…” which was a pretty good motto for the situation when he publicly stated it.

    Now I seem to remember that the last police chief was not so beloved either and I may have said some things about him too. Something about him getting caught mouthing off to a reporter with greater emotion than his payscale allowed for. Well now we have a new chief – which was what many to most seemed to want. Someone who can really understand the people.. run things the way the OUSD community would want… And still we’re not happy!

    Welcome to OUSD Chief Sarna. Hope you enjoy the experience.

    Brave New World.

  • TheTruthHurts

    Let me repeat. I’m not saying he’s a bad guy or might not be a great chief. Maybe it was the right decision given the need for a hire, the applicant pool and the task at hand.

    I am just having a hard time with adults who can only say, “do as I say, not as I do” on critical issues of morality and judgement. Not that a man strapped with heat needs moral authority, but there was a time when we expected that from our authority figures. If Obama was smoking crack in 2006, I would hope we would have passed on him in 2008.

    As I said, I’m all for forgiveness, I’m just for PROOF also. If this happened two years ago, what is the proof of a change? What is the proof that we are not endangering more lives with someone who has unresolved demons to deal with?

    I hope OUSD satisfied itself on these questions. I wish him and OUSD the best, I just question the decision-making.

  • harlemmoon

    At some point, the contented get to the place where settling becomes the norm, where we no longer aspire, set our sights on higher things or reach for those things that require some bit of exertion.
    OUSD is at that place. Where 2nd best (or third or fourth) is acceptable, where expectations are so low that we no longer even think of ourselves as worthy.
    Day in, day out, we reaffirm our ass-dragging self-esteem in the pathetically obtuse way we hunch our shoulders and sigh the sigh of those who have given up.
    Sarna, the Keystone Cops Board of Education and the dunderheaded administration all deserve each other.
    But when will we ever find the spirit, the will to say we, the City of Oakland deserve better. Far, far better?

  • Gifted1

    WOW. It almost sounds like some of you are jealous. You act as if you have never done something you regret. GET OVER IT is just what you need to do. Nobody is perfect and everyone including all of you have done something at some point in your life you would change if you could. Have you ever been through the selection process for a position such as this one. I doubt it. There’s something very positive about pete and you can see that in his proven track record. Let the guy do his job and you’ll see a DUI has absoultly nothing to do with him getting the job done.


    but it other afro american that are denied a job and it is only a misdeamener and you say he cant work until he get through probation. THat is not fair and it is discrimination. I would file a eeoc.
    or get a lawyer against the district for denying many from working and tell them dont evfen ask why. Not me i think we should fight. And expo OUSD FOr THE DISREPECT OF AFRO AMERICAN WOMEN AND MEN IN THIS COMMUNITY,



  • Will Telish

    It helps to have political contacts. Pete was Jerry Brown’s confidante and also advisor of sorts when Brown was Oakland’s mayor. Brown endorsed and appointed Sarna to Calif DOJ’s DLE Director position. When Sarna resigned after the DUI, Brown helped Sarna get various law enforcement and security gigs using his political contacts. Good to know people in high places. I wasn’t that lucky.