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Controversy continues for local police

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Controversy continues for local police

Graphic by Tam Duong Jr./The Pioneer

Graphic by Tam Duong Jr./The Pioneer

Graphic by Tam Duong Jr./The Pioneer

Louis LaVenture,
Editor-in-Chief

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One of the most dangerous cities in America still does not have a police chief.

It’s been nearly three weeks since an Oakland Police Chief has resigned, stepped down or was fired. Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf appointed City Administrator Sabrina Landreth as acting overseer of the department until an investigation into sexual misconduct is completed, according to Schaaf. That investigation has no timetable for completion. Landreth, who has no experience in the law enforcement field, is now responsible for the more than 700 officers in Oakland.

Despite the controversy, crime seems to be down in Oakland. According to OPD statistics through July 2, there have been 28 homicides this year, down from 42 at the same time last year.

At the center of the controversy is an 18-year-old sex worker from Richmond who goes by the moniker Celeste Guap; her last name, Guap, is slang for money. For Guap, it was one of her client’s deaths that started this downward spiral for the East Bay city.

In September 2015, OPD officer Brendan O’Brien committed suicide just a year after his wife also took her own life, allegedly for unknown reasons. However, O’Brien’s motivations were a little clearer. According to the OPD, O’Brien left a suicide note that not only explained that Guap was “blackmailing” him because of their sexual relationship, but also implicated sexual relationships between some of his fellow OPD officers and Guap.

Guap said she was being chased by a pimp on International Boulevard in East Oakland a few years ago when she first met O’Brien. He saw her and “rescued” her.

“He saved me,” Guap said. “I could have been hurt bad or killed. He just showed up and saved me.”

Guap, whose mother is an OPD dispatcher, said she was 12 years old the first time she accepted money for sex. Four years later at the age of 16, Guap slept with the first OPD officer.

“Richmond is rough,” Guap said. “I had my own issues and got caught up in the street life. Drugs, sex, all that.”

While Guap celebrated her eighteenth birthday on a vacation in Puerto Rico, she reached out to O’Brien, who she said had texted her, “How would you feel if I died?”

After a lengthy text conversation that ended with Guap arguing with O’Brien, she sent a screenshot of their messages to an OPD sergeant, along with several names of officers she claimed to have had sex with over a two-year period. Initially the accused were just Oakland officers; however, according to Guap, in addition to 16 OPD officers, she has also had sex with six Richmond Police officers, four Alameda County Sheriff’s deputies, three San Francisco police officers, a Contra Costa Sheriff’s deputy, a Livermore police officer and a U.S. military member.

According to the Alameda County Coroner’s Office, O’Brien’s autopsy revealed that he shot himself within hours of the text message exchange with Guap. Guap said of the 32 men, just three of them paid her; she worked on a barter system with the others.

“I gave them what they wanted and they gave me information,” Guap said. According to Guap, on multiple occasions officers gave her information into prostitution stings as well as sensitive and restricted criminal investigation information, including police reports.

Oakland not only has a history and reputation for crime, but for police misconduct as well. The OPD has been federally monitored since 2003, when Oakland settled a lawsuit that claimed a group of officers known as the “Riders” used excessive force and planted evidence on suspects.

On Friday, two Richmond Police officers were reassigned from their positions, according to a statement from Richmond Mayor Tom Butt. Lieutenant Andre Hill was relieved of his duties at the Youth and Special Services Division, while officer Jerrod Tong was relieved of his school resource duties and stepped down from his position with the Police Explorer Program. Neither the Mayor nor the Richmond Police Department would confirm if these were two of the six RPD officers implicated by Guap.

According to a statement by the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, their investigation into the sexual misconduct involving Guap is complete and four deputies who had sex with Guap were exonerated because “it was consensual, no one paid and she was 18 at the time.”

Last week at a town hall meeting, residents and many others voiced their concern over the sexual misconduct and the city’s handling of it. Several attendees yelled at Schaaf and demanded her resignation.

“This is ridiculous,” 26-year Oakland resident Michelle Collins said. “Murders, drugs, guns, gangs and now we got to worry about this too? How am I supposed to trust a cop knowing they might be the one who had sex with that little girl?”    

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Controversy continues for local police