Bay Area Police Sex Scandal Needs An Outside Investigation
June 30, 2016 (Fault Lines) — Last week, Fault Lines covered the unraveling Oakland Police Department’s sex scandal, forcing three chiefs to resign within a nine day period. Now the sex worker at the heart of the incident has come forward, giving the details Mayor Libby Schaaf refuses to disclose. They ain’t pretty.
Celeste Guap’s version of the story implicates thirty police officers, seven law enforcement agencies, and places the Oakland Police Department squarely in the eyes of the California Attorney General if the investigations aren’t “handled properly.”
Eighteen-year-old Celeste Guap called…from internal affairs at the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Department on Tuesday afternoon. They’re questioning her about a deputy who, Celeste says, had sex with her when she was underage. There are three other cases of possible statutory rape at the Oakland Police Department. The scandal has now spread to four Bay Area counties.
The reports from California are staggering in nature. If Guap’s account is to be believed, at least one official from the U.S. Military’s Defense Logistics Agency solicited her services at some point during this outrageous incident. Celeste sees nothing wrong with what she did, and wished no ill on any of the parties currently under investigation. In fact, her sordid tale begins with a solicitation for help from Officer Brendan O’Brien while drunk and in a rough neighborhood in Puerto Rico on her eighteenth birthday. If O’Brien had picked up the phone that night and spoken to Guap, Sean Whent might still lead the Oakland Police Department.
[Guap] saw [O’Brien] was active on Facebook and thought he was ignoring her.
“Had I not been drinking that night, I wouldn’t of said a lot of the things that I said,” she said.
They argued by text, and she threatened to tell his superiors at the Oakland Police Department he had sex with her when she was 17. O’Brien did not take it well.
“He asked me, he asked me, asked me, ‘How would you feel if I died?'”
Then, Celeste says she sent him a screenshot of a message to an OPD sergeant, in which she revealed their underage sex and named other officers she was involved with, as well.
That indiscretion, Guap’s momentary lapse in reason, now has her under further police scrutiny than ever as various law enforcement agencies in the Bay Area work tirelessly to vindicate themselves of any wrongdoing. One agency that’s finished the job is Alameda County, where four deputies implicated have been cleared of any wrongdoing since none paid for sex and Guap was eighteen at the time of each encounter.
Four Alameda Sheriff’s deputies admit to having sex with the 18-year-old, but the department has concluded they did nothing illegal or unethical, and they made that decision without even interviewing the young woman.
[The] deputies, including a canine handler, admit having sex with Celeste, but say it was consensual; she was 18, and they didn’t pay. The sheriff’s spokesman refused to be interviewed..it was a “personal and private” matter for their officers, and that their conduct was not illegal or unethical. (Emphasis added.)
So Alameda County did an in-house investigation, it’s all “personal,” and since none of the officers “paid” eighteen-year-old Celeste Guap for her services, it’s all kosher, right? That depends on how you view the “consideration” factor of California’s prostitution statute. If the officers with whom Guap “turned tricks” were among those who texted her locations where prostitution stings would occur on a given night, then they’d technically be guilty of a misdemeanor.
One exchange from this past March with a cop she nicknamed “Superman” reads, “Want some advice?” Celeste answered, “Tell me handsome.” The response was, “Stay off E14 from Fruitvale to 42 tonight. There’s a uc (or undercover) operation.”
Celeste also [says] on at least 10 occasions, officers provided police reports or inside information on criminal cases for her and her friends.
Information on areas to avoid and police reports are consideration if the parties agree to the exchange of “services,” even if the deal is for the performance of a “lewd act.” And then there’s the other potential form of consideration, that if Guap refused, would she be arrested? Was she submitting to the shield? Even sex workers cannot be coerced into sex by police.
Alameda County didn’t even bother to check and see if “Superman” was among their deputies. For their Internal Affairs division, the matter was simply “move along, nothing to see here, we did our job now let us get back to making sure you’re safe, citizen.”
Alameda County’s failure to act, or even place deputies on suspension or administrative leave, means cops from Oakland, San Fransisco, Contra Costa, and Livermore are now being closely watched by California AG Kamala Harris, who’s vowed to take action if the local agencies won’t.
“We are monitoring it and if it comes to the point that those investigations are not proceeding as they should, then we’ll get involved,” said Harris.
The attorney general…called the conduct of the street cops, sergeants and captains “deeply troubling, shocking and outrageous.”
“They are bad apples,” she said. “They have violated the public trust and they have committed crimes if the allegations prove to be supported by evidence.”
Kamala Harris is a touch unclear on how exactly the investigations should proceed to her liking, but there’s a clear route to uncovering the truth. Don’t let Alameda County, San Francisco, Oakland, or any other law enforcement agency implicated conduct their own investigations. Fault Lines contributor Greg Prickett regularly stresses the importance of outside agencies leading investigations into cop shootings. When a major sex scandal breaks out of one city and implicates thirty cops across the Bay Area, it should be no different.
The eyes of the nation are on the Bay Area in the wake of numerous officers’ indiscretions with an eighteen-year-old (or younger at the time) sex worker. The fact that at least one department has been allowed to complete an internal review without even speaking to Celeste Guap speaks volumes on how little scrutiny these agencies planned on giving this matter.
If Mayor Schaaf and AG Harris want “justice” or “accountability,” the message is clear. Hand each investigation, no matter how uncomfortable it gets, to an outside agency and let them do the job you can’t possibly do: investigate yourself.