By Ronnie Cohen
OAKLAND, California (Reuters) - The police chief of violence-plagued Oakland, whose force is working to implement reforms agreed upon in a civil rights settlement, said in a surprise move on Wednesday that he was taking a medical leave and planned to retire.
Howard Jordan, 47, made the announcement on the Oakland Police Department website as he was scheduled to unveil a report on curtailing crime in a city that had 131 homicides in 2012, making it one of the country's most dangerous places. The Northern California city near San Francisco has about 400,000 residents.
Under the headline, "It has been an honor to serve Oakland," Jordan said: "This morning I advised City Administrator Deanna Santana that, effective immediately, I am on medical leave and taking steps toward medical retirement. This decision has been difficult, but necessary."
Mayor Jean Quan named Jordan as the city's top cop in February 2012, when he was serving as interim chief. Four officers were gunned down in three hours in 2009 while Jordan served in the interim role.
During his tenure, Jordan simultaneously battled rising crime and shrinking resources. He persuaded the city to hire prominent lawman William Bratton, a former New York and Los Angeles police chief, to advise him.
Jordan said he delivered the news of his departure to the city administrator on Wednesday a short time before media congregated at police headquarters for a news conference.
Jordan had been expected to release a $250,000 crime-reduction report drafted by Bratton, but the event was ultimately canceled.
The move to hire Bratton in a city with a history of civil unrest and police violence followed a December agreement that narrowly averted a federal court takeover of Oakland's troubled police force.
The agreement stemmed from a civil rights lawsuit, settled in 2003, in which 119 people, almost all African-American, alleged police planted evidence and beat suspects. Under the settlement, the city agreed to changes in officer investigations and discipline as well as measures to stop racial profiling.
But a decade later, Oakland has yet to complete work on a list of promised reforms. Images of Oakland police in riot gear using tear gas to subdue members of the Occupy protest movement a year ago raised an outcry. (Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Peter Cooney)