Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Oakland Disciplines Twelve Cops in Sex Crime Case

Internal Affairs investigation of Celeste Guap abuse case concludes. Seven Oakland cops suspended, four terminated, one sent to counseling.

By Darwin BondGraham and Ali Winston
Wed, Sep 7, 2016 at 7:14 PM

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At a late afternoon press conference, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf announced the conclusion of the city's investigation into allegations of sex crimes and other misconduct by numerous police officers. Twelve cops face discipline, but Schaaf said state law prevents the city from disclosing any information that could identify the officers.

Most of the officers will be suspended without pay and will return to the force. Schaaf and the Oakland Police Department did not state the lengths of the suspensions. And the officers have the right to contest their discipline through arbitration.

The city cannot bring criminal charges against any officers, and Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley has yet to charge anyone.

“This was an exhaustive and expansive case,” OPD Deputy Chief John Lois said.

Internal affairs investigators interviewed Guap eleven times, in addition to fifty additional witnesses, and scoured through reams of electronic data, including more than 28,000 text messages and 80,000 pages of social-media records.

According to the offenses detailed by Schaaf this evening and the Express' prior reporting, former rookie officers James Ta'ai and Terryl Smith are among the four officers terminated by OPD. The mayor said some of the officers terminated by the city have already left the department. Ta'ai and Smith resigned in May.

Guap told the Express that Smith used confidential law enforcement databases to access her previous criminal history, and attempted to rape her on one occasion. Ta'ai allegedly had sex with Guap when she was underage, and along with Smith allegedly lied to investigators during interviews with investigators.

The list of offenses disclosed by the city does not include anything that would specifically apply to supervisors who oversee officers. Several city sources said they doubted any supervisors were disciplined, and Schaaf did not respond when asked whether anyone other than low-ranking cops were punished.

“You've got to go straight up the line,” said a former Oakland police officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “If you don't hold the supervisors accountable, the arbitrators will look at that."

This former officer cited dozens of recent cases where discipline against lower-ranking officers had been overturned after arbitrators found fault with supervisors or commanders.

The conclusion of Oakland's investigation comes just a week after Guap was arrested in Florida on charges of aggravated battery. The Contra Costa DA's office told the Express today that Guap was sent to Florida by the Richmond Police Department using state victims compensation funds.

When asked about RPD's decision to send Guap to a Florida rehab center, Schaaf voiced displeasure. “We are not happy about this,” she said, adding that Oakland officials offered Guap services over the past few months.

Civil rights attorney John Burris, who along with Jim Chanin is one of the plaintiff attorneys in Oakland's federal consent decree, voiced approval of Oakland's decision to discipline police officers. He said the onus is now on Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley to prosecute the responsible cops.

“I always thought criminal charges should be filed,” Burris said. However, he added that he was “not optimistic, since members of the district attorney's office were involved.”

DA Inspector Ricardo Orozco, a former Oakland Police captain, was fired by O'Malley earlier this summer for contacting Guap via social media.

Burris said he believes that California Attorney General Kamala Harris should intervene with regard to a criminal investigation of Guap's abuse.

In addition to disciplining officers, Schaaf and City Administrator Sabrina Landreth said that OPD will also enact a series of policy changes, including training for how officers handle sex trafficking victims, auditing the use of confidential law enforcement databases, and creating additional training for social media.

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