Four Oakland police officers to be fired
on September 9, 2016
On Wednesday, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf announced that four Oakland police officers involved in a sex scandal with a young sex worker will be fired and seven suspended without pay. But some Oakland residents say the discipline doesn’t go far enough.
As the city concludes its administrative investigation, Schaaf’s office has issued a press release stating that four officers will be fired for offenses including attempted sexual assault and assisting in the crime of prostitution. According to the release, some of the officers are being fired or suspended for allegedly “failing to report a violation of law, or rules by not reporting allegations of a minor having/had sexual contact with Oakland police officers.” One other officer will also receive counseling for “bringing disrepute to the Oakland Police Department,” according to the release.
The disciplinary action comes one year after an Oakland Police Department (OPD) officer committed suicide, revealing in a letter that he and other OPD officers repeatedly had sex with an underage sex worker. In June, following media revelations about the case, three successive police chiefs stepped down or were fired. OPD has been without a chief since then, and city officials are in the process of searching for a new chief.
None of the officers were named, and Schaaf’s press release didn’t specify the ranks of any of the officers.
Some Oaklanders said they need more answers. At the third of the city’s town hall discussions inviting people to speak about what they want in a new police chief—this one attended by fewer than ten people—East Oakland resident Daryle Allums Sr. spoke with Oakland North before the forum. “We should be able to know, who are these cops?” he said.
Some Oakland residents said they’re disappointed that only four officers were fired. Local media reports have alleged the young woman at the center of the scandal had sex with more than a dozen Oakland officers.
“All the police officers involved should have been fired,” said Oakland resident Renee Mattson, speaking before the forum. “The problem should’ve been handled way before it got handled. The other police officers that knew about the situation are just as bad as the ones that participated.”
Rashidah Grinage, coordinator of the Coalition for Police Accountability (CPA), concurred. Reached by phone before she attended the forum, she said, “It’s hard to know whether the discipline was appropriate, because we don’t know who was disciplined in terms of their rank, and we don’t know who was disciplined for what.” The coalition is an umbrella organization of Oakland community groups that advocate for policy change.
In the press release, Schaaf wrote that state law prohibits city officials from naming the officers.
“The City is constrained from releasing additional details related to this confidential personnel matter by state law (Penal Code section 832.7) which prohibits the disclosure of peace officers’ identities associated with personnel investigations as well as disciplinary actions taken against peace officers and other confidential details related to personnel investigations,” according to the release.
But Grinage said city officials are withholding information that could legally be released to the public.
“We don’t know if any supervisors were disciplined. We don’t know if any supervisors were aware and were part of the cover-up,” said Grinage. “So there are a lot of unanswered questions. Some of them can’t be answered because of state law, but some of them can be, like the ones I just mentioned.”
The disciplinary action is still subject to review by an arbitrator under the terms of the city’s contract with the police union, the Oakland Police Officers’ Association. According to Schaaf’s press release, “All of these discipline decisions will now be subject to due process and grievance procedures.”
An OPD spokesman declined to comment for this article, referring Oakland North to Schaaf’s office. But representatives from the mayor’s office did not respond to requests for comment. The press release quotes her as saying, “We care deeply about this community and its officers and believe that the outcomes in this case will root out misconduct, encourage a culture of transparency and continue the work of restoring trust.”
Representatives from the police union were not available for comment by press time.
Schaaf’s press release specified three specific changes that will be made in the department: “Stronger Support for Ending Sexual Exploitation and Abuse,” “Tighter Controls on Accessing Criminal Databases,” and “Social Media Policy and Training.” The latter two changes are presumably because officers were also accused of improper use of law enforcement databases and of using social media to communicate with the young woman.
Reached by phone, Oakland Councilmember Noel Gallo (District 5) said he believes there was widespread knowledge of officers’ wrongdoing within the department, and he thinks more officers should have faced discipline.
“There’s a whole lot of folks who knew what was going on, and people were trying to cover it up,” he said. “If there’s something that’s happening in the neighborhood and I failed to tell you, then I’m just as guilty as the person who committed the crime.”
Grinage said she also believes that knowledge of the scandal was widespread in the department.
“The degree to which there was complicity by silence is troubling,” she said. “It’s hard to imagine that there wasn’t some level of general knowledge in the locker room.”
Allums said the officers involved failed to do their jobs. He said he would say to them: “You have a job to do as an Oakland police officer. We hired you to protect and serve. … You’ve violated every commitment you made to serve us. Then, you broke the law yourself.”
According to a spokesperson for the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office, the criminal investigation into the officers’ conduct is still ongoing. “We will conclude our investigation soon,” spokesperson Teresa Drenick wrote in an email. Drenick said the DA’s office had no further comment while the investigation is still in progress.
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