At Least 2 Dozen SFPD Officers Tied to Teen at Center of Sexual Exploitation Scandal

 (Thomas Hawk/Flickr)

Updated 4:25 p.m. Friday, July 15

The San Francisco Police Department has minimized the extent to which a sexual exploitation crisis rocking several East Bay law enforcement agencies has touched its side of the Bay Bridge, but a KQED analysis of current and former SFPD officers' Facebook accounts shows the 18-year-old woman at the center of the sex abuse scandal was connected to dozens of people affiliated with the department.

A week after former Oakland Police Chief Sean Whent suddenly resigned amid revelations that several OPD officers may have sexually exploited and trafficked a young woman -- and allegations that he may have mishandled an internal investigation -- headlines blared that SFPD officers may also have been involved. The woman, who calls herself Celeste Guap, claimed to have had sex with San Francisco officers who knew she worked in the sex trade.

Attempts to reach Guap, who now lives in Richmond and is the daughter of an Oakland police dispatcher, were unsuccessful.

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The San Francisco Police Department cited an “open investigation to determine if any members have had any inappropriate contact with the victim,” while anonymous SFPD sources allegedly said that the investigation focused on officers who had recently transferred across the bay from Oakland.

KQED has learned that at least two dozen current and former SFPD officers -- as well as others affiliated with the department -- were at one time connected to Guap’s Facebook account. The connections point to officers with long careers in the Police Department and to a much more direct connection in the SFPD than just a handful of recent Oakland transfers. Guap's connections include at least three current and 21 retired officers. They include a former police commissioner and a recent member of the board of directors of the police officers' union, the Police Officers Association.

One retired SFPD officer repeatedly “liked” and commented on some of Guap’s more suggestive Facebook photos.

“yow!!!!!” the former officer wrote. Other comments he wrote included:

“love the short shorts”
“Beautiful!!!!!”
“WO(W!!!”
“Gorgous (sic)”

Attempts to reach that retired officer were unsuccessful.

KQED is withholding the names of officers quoted in this report at this time because publication of those names could unfairly harm people whose connections may have been incidental and may not indicate wrongdoing. We are using "Guap's" pseudonym to protect the identity of someone who may have been sexually exploited.


"The Police Department at a minimum should look at this Facebook page of hers, which shows this interaction with San Francisco police officers," said law professor and city ethics commissioner Peter Keane. He's also a former police commissioner, but not the one with a social media connection to Guap.

Keane said investigators should interview officers to determine the "extent of the relationships, if any, there have been between these officers and this woman."

San Francisco Police Department spokesman Sgt. Michael Andraychak said the matter is subject to an open internal affairs investigation. He would not say whether that investigation might include a review of officers' social media accounts.

The San Francisco Examiner reported Friday that Officer Rodger Ponce De Leon is a subject of the department's internal investigation.

Many SFPD officers' Facebook interactions with Guap are inconclusive, and a large group of officers were simply “friends” with her at one point but never interacted beyond that.

"This case raised lots of red flags for me personally," Police Commissioner Victor Hwang wrote in an emailed response, noting that as a public figure, he receives a lot of "friend requests" on social media, sometimes "from individuals with provocative profile pictures."

"It's hard to figure out what's what," he wrote. "All I can say is that the department is honestly looking into this to see if any officer had more than just a Facebook acquaintance with the victim."

But many interactions go beyond "just friends." Several officers repeatedly "liked" or commented on suggestive photos of Guap, including one recently retired SFPD officer with more than three decades on the force, who agreed to speak to KQED.

"Police officers, being human, they do make mistakes," that former officer said. "So they may 'friend' somebody who maybe they shouldn’t be friends with. We don’t always make the right decisions. We try to do what’s right, but it doesn’t always turn out that way."

The former officer, along with many others, started to shed those social media connections with Guap as the crisis grew. A retired female officer broke ties with Guap in mid-June.

She said it's disturbing that officers' reputations are in jeopardy.

“It just feels very violating towards the police,” she said.

The former officer had several friendly interactions with Guap on Facebook, suggesting they might know each other outside cyberspace. But she said she only knew Guap on Facebook.

“Apparently there’s police involved that they’re dragging in that didn’t even have anything to do with it, except like me, just had a connection on Facebook,” she said.

“Once I started seeing the level of multi-jurisdictions, people involved and police chiefs being fired, I was like, you know what? Facebook is supposed to be a friendly, interactive social media. It’s not supposed to be bringing me a big problem. So I was like, OK, I don’t need this.”

The San Francisco Police Department has no permanent rules governing officers’ personal use of social media, but they’re in the works. The department drafted a new general order that is currently the subject of negotiations with the officers’ labor union.

Police Commission President Suzy Loftus said Friday that she's hopeful the new general order will be finalized soon.

"Part of this is officers are held to a higher standard," she said. "On and off the job, there is an expectation of their behavior."

SFPD Sgt. Andraychak declined to provide a copy of the draft rules, citing ongoing negotiations, and refused a request to speak with any members of the department involved in writing them. The San Francisco Police Officers Association also declined multiple requests to talk about the negotiations and draft policy.

The department did provide temporary rules governing officers’ personal use of social media -- a department bulletin issued by former Police Chief Greg Suhr in late 2014.

Members are expected to be smart, thoughtful, and responsible in all interactions and to maintain the respect, dignity, and professionalism that is consistent with the mission of the SFPD at all times. ... We are here to help people and to serve as role models to children. If you would not want to have a child see and/or read what you are considering posting, transmitting, and/or disseminating, do not post, transmit and/or disseminate it.

"It’s definitely time for the promulgation of some very definite, specific guidelines of how police should interact on social media," former police commissioner Keane said, adding that any contact with Guap now raises serious questions about whether officers are trading confidential law enforcement information, compromising themselves or abusing a position of power.

"Those are explosive types of dangers that police officers can get themselves involved in unless they’re more cautious of and aware of some problems like this occurring with their contacts on social media," Keane said.

The retired officer who "liked" several of Guap's suggestive photos said he felt betrayed by the scandal and behavior of officers alleged to have had sex with the teenager.

"It makes me angry, and I don’t know if it’s a generational thing. It’s a different type of mentality," he said. "Guys like me, when I came on, I came on trying to do something to help people, to give back to my community. And these guys come in and they do something stupid like this, and they totally destroy everything that I feel like I’ve been doing for the past 32 years."

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This report was updated to include responses from Suzy Loftus and Victor Hwang and a reference to the San Francisco Examiner's report.

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