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Schools police chief retires amid racial slur probe

The embattled police chief of the Oakland Unified School District announced his retirement Wednesday amid an investigation surrounding a complaint that he allegedly used racial slurs against a black officer.

Pete Sarna, 41, told district officials he was stepping down, district spokesman Troy Flint confirmed, meaning the investigation into the incident is now closed.

Sarna’s attorney told the San Francisco Chronicle that her client, a veteran of the Oakland Police Department and the state Department of Justice, also was retiring from law enforcement.

The district placed Sarna on administrative leave as it investigated a complaint filed by an officer after a July 18 charity golf tournament at Oakland’s Sequoyah County Club.

Sarna, who is white, allegedly used racial slurs in front of two sergeants -- one of whom is black -- and a police driver, the Chronicle reported, allegedly telling the black sergeant: "The only good [expletive] is a dead [expletive] and they should hang you in the town square to prevent any other [expletive] from coming in the area."

The second sergeant, who is white, filed a complaint against the chief.

Sarna gave a letter Wednesday to Oakland school board President Gary Yee in which he apologized for his actions, the Chronicle reported.

"I am deeply sorry for the pain my actions have caused," he wrote. "My words hurt not only those who heard them, but also the entire community I have tried to serve as police chief of the Oakland Unified School District."

Sarna said he would work on "repairing the pain I have caused to my family and on my recovery and sobriety. I make no excuses for my behavior and offer no explanations. There simply is no excuse for the hurtful words I used and no explanation for behavior so at odds with whom I believe myself to be."

Sarna had allegedly been drinking at the tournament.

In 2007, he resigned from his position as deputy director of the Justice Department’s Division of Law Enforcement after crashing his state-owned car and being cited for misdemeanor drunken driving.

Sarna was named the school district’s police chief in June 2009.

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-- Kate Mather

 
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