Berkeley’s top police officer faced internal accusations of misconduct as she rose through ranks

A pioneering police officer, Jennifer Louis is poised to record several historic firsts at the Berkeley Police Department as a gay Asian woman selected to serve as chief. But as she awaits a City Council confirmation vote, a 2017 investigation into sexual harassment allegations has come to light.

An outside law firm hired by the city to investigate upheld allegations that she made harassing comments to one woman, but not claims made by two other women, according to city investigative and disposition records reviewed by the Los Angeles Times. Louis appealed to Berkeley City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley and in 2018 was given a written reprimand, stating that some comments she made were “unprofessional,” which has since been removed from her record.

Louis joined the Berkeley police in 1999 and rose steadily through the ranks — from patrol to working as a supervisor in the Special Victims Unit, to heading the department’s Strategic Response Team. She was made one of the department’s four captains in 2016 and spearheaded the police response to the pandemic.

When her predecessor retired in 2021, she was appointed to lead the department as the search for a permanent chief began. Louis was one of three candidates interviewed to assume the role, part of a nationwide search that was supposed to take six months but ended up taking 20. She was tapped for the top job in October, but the City Council vote to confirm her as chief was put on hold due to a scandal involving the police union head sending racist text messages.

The council members now set to vote on Louis’ confirmation said they were never made aware of the 2017 allegations against Louis, the ensuing investigation or Louis’ appeal, two city officials told The Times.

“The city manager should have informed (the council) so they have all relevant information for (the) vote,” one of the officials said.

Ten current and former members of the Berkeley Police Department interviewed by The Times were split on their views of Louis, with four describing her as having made advances toward younger women in the department, while others say she is a strong leader who is the focus of baseless allegations.

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