Celeste Guap was only seventeen in February of last year when a pimp chased her down International Boulevard. She spotted an Oakland police car and approached for help. That's when she met officer Brendan O'Brien.
"He saved me," Guap said of the lanky ex-Marine, who joined the Oakland Police Department in 2013 after graduating from the 166th police academy.
Rather than detaining Guap as a victim of human trafficking and turning her over to guardians, she said O'Brien released her. "We flirted a little," she recalled, adding that she told O'Brien her mother was a dispatcher in the department.
Two weeks later, Guap saw O'Brien on patrol again in East Oakland. He and his partner were making an arrest near a taco truck. She struck up a conversation and they exchanged numbers. Shortly afterward, O'Brien and the girl began "dating" — a word Guap used to describe their relationship.
Guap said she had sex with the Oakland police officer numerous times while she was a minor.
The OPD and other East Bay law-enforcement agencies have positioned themselves as national leaders in the fight against human trafficking and the sexual abuse of children. But O'Brien and other East Bay cops betrayed this reputation with their exploitation of Guap. Officers trafficked her among their ranks and used the minor for sex for half a year.
The scandal is unprecedented: According to multiple sources close to the department and the city of Oakland, and documents obtained by the Express, at least fourteen Oakland police officers, three Richmond police, four Alameda County sheriff's deputies, and a federal officer took advantage of the teenager. (The Express is not publishing her real name because she was a minor when her abuse began.)
Three Oakland police officers committed statutory rape of Guap when she was under-age. By the state's legal definition, they engaged in human trafficking. The victim says every law-enforcement agent who had sex with her knew she was a sex worker.
Guap, now eighteen years old, said she sometimes slept with cops as a form of protection from arrest or prosecution. Experts in human trafficking told the Express this amounts to coercion.
In addition to the sexual abuse, some police endangered their fellow officers' lives, and the public, by leaking confidential information about undercover prostitution stings to Guap. One Oakland cop obtained police reports and criminal histories and shared them with the victim, which is against department policy. Sex-worker advocates explained that, by providing anything of value to Guap after she turned 18, including information or protection, law-enforcement officers were purchasing sex and, therefore, violating state law.
The Express published parts of Guap's story this past Friday, June 10, just hours after a press conference at City Hall, where Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf announced that police Chief Sean Whent had resigned for "personal reasons." The mayor reiterated that morning that his departure had nothing to do with this sexual-misconduct scandal. But this paper's investigation disproved Schaaf's claim.
Now, Oakland officials are reeling. "We are horrified, shocked and sickened at recent, additional revelations about abuse and misconduct within the Oakland Police Department," Oakland Councilmembers Annie Campbell Washington, Abel Guillen, and Larry Reid wrote on Facebook this past Sunday in response to the Express' reporting.
Oakland City Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney wrote that, if the allegations prove true, they "fully undermine the incredible work OPD has done in recent years to lead the state in combatting the sexual exploitation of our children."
Even state officials' eyes are now on Oakland and the East Bay. "The allegations of misconduct, if true, are disturbing and reflect a serious breach of the trust placed in law enforcement by the communities we are sworn to serve," said Kristin Ford, a spokeswoman for California Attorney General Kamala Harris. "There must be swift accountability for any wrongdoing."
But OPD has dragged its feet. Multiple department supervisors knew about Guap's abuse by Oakland cops last year, yet did not report it. In fact, according to interviews with the victim and other city and OPD sources, department higher-ups repeatedly failed to report Guap's exploitation.
Now, this explosive scandal has cost Whent his career and exposed Schaaf to severe criticism — but the blowback for OPD, other agencies, and Oakland's elected officials is far from over.
The Eastmont Boys
After officer O'Brien committed statutory rape of Guap, he later introduced Oakland police officers Terryl Smith and James Ta'ai to the victim. Smith, Ta'ai, and O'Brien worked in the same squad out of OPD's Eastmont substation, patrolling streets that are saturated with prostitution and child-sex trafficking.
According to Guap and Oakland officer Luis Roman, a total of three cops committed statutory rape of Guap while she was seventeen. Her interactions with officers as a minor fit the legal definition of human trafficking.
This week, the Contra Costa County district attorney reported that Smith had sex with Guap, but only when she was an adult, and that there was insufficient evidence to charge him with statutory rape.
OPD did not respond to a request to discuss these allegations.
Over several interviews, Guap maintained that officers were "tricks," who she voluntarily had sex with in exchange for protection, or because she wanted to.
"I think cops are fine. They're cute and all, but it's like one less officer that's gonna arrest me," she said. "I would hook up with [Smith] like every Saturday night for three months straight. He had a mattress in his back seat and slept in his car in the OPD parking lot, so we would hook up after work."
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