Friday, September 22, 2017

Oakland Police Chief Kirkpatrick Points Blame at Ex-Chief Whent for Mishandling of Celeste Guap Sex Crimes Case

She also defended her decision to promote officers who were directly responsible for bungling the case.

By Darwin BondGraham
Fri, Sep 22, 2017 at 3:41 PM

click to enlarge kirkpatrick.png

At a League of Women Voters event last night, Oakland Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick gave her account of why she chose to go ahead with two controversial promotions of officers who mishandled the internal investigations of the Celeste Guap sex crime scandal.

In short, she blamed former Chief Sean Whent for screwing up the Guap cases — not the officers she promoted.

The chief's comments also appear to contradict an official court report that spells out in detail the several ways in which the officers she promoted failed to properly supervise criminal investigations of Oakland cops who sexually exploited Celeste Guap.

Kirkpatrick began with a point she's previously made: that the promotions had been reviewed by federal court-appointed police monitor Robert Warshaw. Warshaw signed off specifically on the promotion of Deputy Chief John Lois to the rank of assistant police chief and Lt. Roland Holmgren to the rank of captain.

Back in late 2015, when the Celeste Guap case first came to the attention of the department, Lois was the head of OPD's bureau of investigations, making him the top supervisor of the homicide and special victims unit officers who botched the Guap cases. Holmgren was the lieutenant in charge of homicide, putting him in charge of that division's case.

Kirkpatrick's strongly implied that Warshaw was fully informed and said the promotions were OK.

But Kirkpatrick didn't say whether Warshaw knew about Lois and Holmgren's role in the first two mishandled internal investigations when he gave his approval.

Warshaw hasn't responded to previous phone calls from the Express seeking answers to this question. But what is clear is that federal Judge Thelton Henderson appointed independent attorneys to investigate the mishandling of the Guap case, and those attorneys reported directly to the judge, not Warshaw. When those attorneys filed their report in June of this year, it revealed in detail how Lois and Holmgren mishandled the supervision of the Guap case and allowed OPD's examinations to be prematurely closed.

But by that time, the promotions had already been made.

At last night's meeting, Kirkpatrick went on to say that the media and others have been unfair to Lois and Holmgren, as well as to Capt. Kirk Coleman, who was also a supervisor in the criminal investigation division where the Guap cases were mishandled and buried. Coleman is still a captain, but he now runs OPD's internal affairs unit.

"All the people named in the papers, that was not fair," said Kirkpatrick.

She called Lois a "man of character," as she has previously done.

"Was he a part of the first investigation? Yes," said Kirkpatrick. "But he answered to higher leadership."

And that's where Kirkpatrick ultimately placed the blame, on former OPD Chief Sean Whent.

Kirkpatrick said that Lois, Holmgren, and Coleman all decided to shut down the criminal investigations of the Guap case because they concluded that there wasn't enough evidence to actually bring charges against any officers.

But there hasty conclusions were contradicted by the court's own report on the mishandled investigations. According to the court's investigators "despite evidence suggesting that other officers had inappropriate sexual contact with [Celeste Guap], including the serious possibility that the sexual contact occurred when she had been a minor, CID [with Coleman and Holmgren directly in charge] closed its investigation within a week of opening it." Lois OK'd all of this.

In addition, according to the court's report, Lois, Coleman, and Holmgren shut down the investigations despite the fact that they had "alarming evidence" on a deceased officer's cellphone that Celeste Guap had been exploited by multiple cops, including several who are still employed by the department and were never punished.

The court investigators determined that the single interview conducted by OPD homicide investigators with Celeste Guap "produced leads," including statements and evidence from Guap that she'd been exploited by cops when she was as young as 14.

In the court's report, there were numerous direct references to decisions made by Holmgren and Coleman and Lois that led to the mishandling of the Guap investigation.

But last night Kirkpatrick directed blame at Whent due to the fact that after the criminal cases were shut down, the investigation moved to internal affairs, an office that's directly overseen by the chief of police.

"The person who is responsible is the chief," said Kirkpatrick, "IA answers to him."

Kirpatrick acknowledged that IA's investigation wasn't adequate. "That's when the federal monitor [Warshaw] stepped in over a year ago and said, 'Hold on.'

"So, he actually hand-picked my current assistant police chief [then Deputy Chief John Lois]," added Kirkpatrick, to lead the second IA investigation into the OPD sex crime scandal.

However, it's not clear whether Warshaw knew about Lois' role in the mishandling of the Celeste Guap case in March of 2016 when he put Lois in charge of the re-opened IA case. This investigation led by Lois led to 12 officers being disciplined, including four terminations.

Finally, Kirkpatrick claimed to have information about the entire affair that the public isn't privy to. "I have information you do not have," she said at last night's meeting when explaining why she still stands by the promotions and blames Whent for the entire scandal.

She didn't elaborate further on what this confidential information is that isn't in the public record.

But she said she's confident in the department's current leadership and the promotions.

"I'm very pleased with my decision."

At the end of the meeting she walked out, declining to answer questions from the Express.

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