New scandal hits Oakland police, nearby agencies

OaklandPDLess than a month after San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr was forced out because of misconduct by his officers, a new police scandal has hit neighboring Oakland and other local law enforcement authorities as well.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf told reporters Thursday that Police Chief Sean Whent was resigning, with the chief vaguely citing “personal reasons.” But the East Bay Express on Friday broke the real reason Whent was leaving after three years on the job:

According to interviews with the victim, elected officials, and sources close to OPD, in addition to documents obtained by the Express, at least 14 Oakland police officers, three Richmond police officers, and four Alameda County sheriff’s deputies had sex with the girl who goes by the name Celeste Guap. (The Express is not publishing Guap’s real name because she was a sexually exploited minor when the abuse began.)

Three Oakland police officers [allegedly] committed statutory rape of Guap when she was under-age. She says all of the law-enforcement agents who had sex with Guap knew she worked as a sex worker.

According to text messages between police officers and the victim, at least three OPD officers leaked her confidential information about undercover prostitution stings. One Oakland cop obtained police reports and criminal histories and shared them with the victim, which is against department policy.

Guap also said she slept with cops as a form of protection.

Officer’s 2015 suicide triggered internal probe

Other news agencies scrambled to corroborate the account. The Associated Press reported that four Oakland officers are on leave because of their dealings with the sex worker.

Meanwhile, the young woman at the center of the case gave an on-camera interview to KPIX in which she repeated the allegations the Express reported. 

She only named one officer, however: Brendan O’Brien, an Oakland patrolman who committed suicide in September 2015.

O’Brien’s suicide spurred on the internal investigation of officer misconduct whose details have been emerging for the past month.

In San Francisco, Police Chief Suhr was willing to defend most of  his officers even as allegations grew. But in Oakland, officials described themselves as shocked and heartsick — and prepared to clean house.

“The Police Department is supposed to protect those young kids,” Councilman Larry Reid told The Los Angeles Times. “As a father with four daughters – that something like this could occur in our city and with some members of the Oakland police – it makes me sick to the stomach.”

“We continue to be disgusted and outraged by the idea that anyone could abuse an underage victim of sexual exploitation – particularly those who have sworn to uphold the law and protect our communities; we are sickened to think anyone could even know of such abuse and not bring that information forward,” Mayor Schaaf said in a prepared statement.

“To think that officers were engaged in the sexual exploitation of a child: It’s heartbreaking,” City Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney told the Bay Area News Group. “And if it’s true, it’s criminal, and they should be prosecuted.”

Sex worker contacted police chief’s wife

While not offering broad corroboration of the Express scoop, the Mercury-News reported Sunday that Schaaf demanded Whent’s resignation because of her belief he had badly botched the investigation. It also reported an unusual detail: Guap had contacted the police chief’s wife, Julia Whent, via Facebook in June 2015 and that she knew Guap was dating an officer.

What makes the Oakland scandal particularly embarrassing is that the local police force is in the 13th year of having a federal monitor review its activities because of past officer misconduct. In 2012, “Oakland became the first U.S. city Wednesday to willfully surrender authority over its command staff to a court-appointed director,” the Oakland Tribune reported.

The new scandal would appear to raise basic questions about the value of this extended federal oversight.

Chris Reed

Chris Reed

Chris Reed is a regular contributor to Cal Watchdog. Reed is an editorial writer for U-T San Diego. Before joining the U-T in July 2005, he was the opinion-page columns editor and wrote the featured weekly Unspin column for The Orange County Register. Reed was on the national board of the Association of Opinion Page Editors from 2003-2005. From 2000 to 2005, Reed made more than 100 appearances as a featured news analyst on Los Angeles-area National Public Radio affiliate KPCC-FM. From 1990 to 1998, Reed was an editor, metro columnist and film critic at the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin in Ontario. Reed has a political science degree from the University of Hawaii (Hilo campus), where he edited the student newspaper, the Vulcan News, his senior year. He is on Twitter: @chrisreed99.

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