Oakland Loses 3rd Top Cop in 8 Days Over Underage Sex Scandal
Three police chiefs have been fired or resigned in a matter of days after allegations surfaced that officers were having sex with a teenage prostitute.
Oakland Police Department’s interim chief stepped down from his post Friday, the third chief this police department has lost in days amid an underage sex scandal that has shaken law enforcement agencies across the Bay Area.
Acting Chief Paul Figueroa spent a total of two days at the helm of the Oakland Police Department before Mayor Libby Schaaf, who seemed visibly upset at announcing yet another resignation this week, said Friday that he too would be stepping down.
“As a mayor of Oakland I am running a police department not a frat house,” Schaaf said.
This time, Schaaf told reporters during a press conference, she would not be appointing another police chief, but will have top brass at the department report to the city administrator, Sabrina Landreth.
Part of the decision to do so, Schaaf said, was, “to send a very clear message about how serious we are of not tolerating misconduct, unethical behavior, and to root out what is clearly a toxic macho culture.”
The department has been reeling from a series of scandals that have sparked multiple internal investigations.
On Friday, Mayor Schaaf said officials were winding down one investigation into allegations high-ranking police officials were found to have either sent or received racist text messages.
One officer is currently on leave in that investigation, she said.
Last week, Chief Sean Whent was the first to be forced out after five Oakland Police officers were placed on administrative leave in connection with allegations they had sex with a teenage prostitute. According to the now 18-year-old woman, the officers exchanged money and tips on undercover prostitution stings in exchange for sex.
Whent was reportedly forced out over his handling of the investigation into the officers’ misconduct.
But his replacement, Ben Fairow, lasted just six days in the position. On Wednesday, he was fired and returned to the Bay Area Rapid Transit Police after the Oakland mayor learned he had admitted to an extramarital affair several years ago.
Figueroa, who was to lead the department until an outside, full-time replacement was found, lasted less than two full days on the job.
Schaaf did not explain Friday why Figueroa decided to step down, but she said the former acting chief “resigned from his duties” and asked to go on leave.
When Figueroa returns, she said, he would do so under the rank of captain for the department.
The mayor did not say when Figueroa would be returning to the job.
Schaaf apologized to the citizens of the city, but said she was determined to reform the department.
“I’m hoping that I won’t have to fire anyone else, darling,” Schaaf told reporters Friday evening.
More than two dozen police officers in seven law enforcement agencies across the Bay Area have been accused of carrying on some sort of relationship with the teen, who goes by the name “Celeste Guap” on social media.
The allegations include officers in Oakland, San Francisco, Richmond, Stockton and Livermore police departments. Alameda and Contra Costa County Sheriff’s deputies have also been, or are, being investigated for sexual misconduct.
An investigator for a district attorney’s office has also been placed on administrative leave.
The woman has said she slept with the officers to avoid going to jail, and that she was a minor when she had sex with some of the officers.
The police departments have launched internal investigations into the claims, and district attorney offices in Contra Costa and Alameda counties have launched parallel investigations.
Oakland Police had been looking into the allegations, but the scandal expanded to include several more officers after one of the officers killed himself and left a suicide note naming four other colleagues who had been involved with the teen.
Alameda County Sheriff officials stated that their internal investigation determined their deputies did not break any laws or commit any unethical behavior, although they were found to have had contact with the woman.
The deputies met the woman through Facebook, but she was 18 at the time, officials said.
Stockton Police officials have said their officers too have been cleared of wrongdoing.
Nevertheless, officials said the district attorney investigations will be looking into the involvement of all officers known to have had contact with Guap.
Schaaf said the department was in need of a strong, moral leader to address the “macho culture” within the department, though she said such problems were widespread beyond Oakland as well.
“I believe the problem of a toxic, macho culture is not unique to the Oakland Police Department,” she said. “It’s not even unique to the law enforcement community.”