11 Oakland Cops Disciplined Over Prostitution Scandal Involving Exploited Teen
Four Oakland police officers have been fired and seven others suspended without pay.
While Celeste Guap sits in a Florida prison on aggravated battery charges, most of the California cops who allegedly exploited her get to carry on with their lives like nothing happened. But in Oakland, where the whole sordid ordeal started, some sort of justice may finally being served. On Wednesday, Mayor Libby Schaaf held a press conference to announce that four Oakland officers had been fired in conjunction with Guap's allegations and an additional seven officers had been suspended without pay.
The firings and suspensions should send "a loud and clear message that we hold our officers to nothing but the highest standards of professionalism and integrity," said Schaaf.
Better late than never, I guess? The Oakland Police Department (OPD) has been plagued with abuse and corruption going back at least two decades.
This latest round started last autumn, when Guap texted the OPD chief claiming to have hooked up with several Oakland cops—starting with Officer Brendan O'Brien—in exchange for either money or protection from prostitution stings. Guap sent a screenshot of the text to O'Brien, who committed suicide a few hours later.
O'Brien apparently met Guap—then just 17-years-old—when she was fleeing an abusive pimp. O'Brien "saved me," Guap told CNN. "Instead of taking me to jail, we just kind of started something there, you know."
At the time, Guap would have been defined under federal law as a victim of sex trafficking even if no violence or coercion was involved, because she was selling sex while under age 18. But Guap's case wasn't simply statutory sex-trafficking; she claims to have been exploited and abused by a violent individual, too. Yet none of this mattered—Guap (like so many others in her situation) still faced arrest for prostitution, because that's how our "criminal justice" system works. And because she faced arrest for prostitution, she also became vulnerable to sexual exploitation and abuse by police.
Ultimately, Guap claimed that she slept with more than 30 police officers spanning five departments: Oakland, San Francisco, Contra Costa County, Alameda County, and Richmond. Many of these areas, including Oakland, have been extremely active at prosecuting prostitution, shaming "johns," and claiming to crack down on teen sex-trafficking.
Regarding Guap's allegations, internal investigations at most of the departments yielded nothing. But activists and civil-rights attorneys have been questioning the impartiality and legitimacy of such intra-agency investigations. They're calling on the state to intervene by consolidating and investigating Guap's claims.
For now, only Oakland officers face dicipline—a start, at least.
Oakland City Administrator Sabrena Landreth said that each of the four fired officers "was found to have committed one or more of the following offenses: attempted sexual assault, engaging in lewd conduct in public assisting in the crime of prostitution, assisting in the evading of arrest for the crime of prostitution, accessing law enforcement databases for personal gain, being untruthful to investigators, failing to report a violation of law or rules by not reporting allegations of a minor having sexual contact with Oakland police officers, and bringing and disrepute to the Oakland Police Department." The seven suspended officers were found to have accessed law enforcement databases for personal gain, been untruthful to investigators, failed to report a violation of law, and brought disrepute to the department.
Criminal charges may be forthcoming. Schaff said District Attorney Nancy O'Malley was still conducting a criminal investigation, but "we have reason to believe she will be making determinations relatively soon."
In June, the OPD Police Chief whom Guap had first texted resigned. He was replaced with an interim chief. Then Mayor Schaff removed him six days later and appointed a new new interim chief.
In late August, Guap flew to Florida to seek treatment for drug addiction at a residential facility. She and her mother claimed the stay was paid for by the Richmond Police Department (RPD) victims' fund and that she had been escorted to the airport by an officer from the agency. RPD said last week it cannot comment on these claims.
Within a few days of her arrival at the treatment center, Guap allegedly became agitated, left the facility, and began flashing passing cars, staff told police. After coming back inside on her own, she was restrained by the facility's security staff and bit one of them—prompting a call to the Martin County Sheriff's Office. She is currently being held in the Martin County Jail on a $300,000 bond.
Attorney Pamela Price is now representing Guap and is seeking donations to help defray "medical and legal expenses." Additionally, Guap's mother, with the aid of the sex-worker activist community, is running a crowdfunding campaign to help "free Celeste."