Federal Monitor: Police Crisis Could Be Most Trying Time in OPD's History

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Thousands of people marched in front of the Oakland Police Department on Thursday, July 7, in protest of recent police killings of unarmed black men and an ongoing sexual exploitation crisis in Bay Area law enforcement. (Alex Emslie/KQED)

The Oakland Police Department is in the midst of a crisis that could mark one of the most trying periods for the force under federal oversight in the past 13 years, according to a recent report filed by court-appointed independent monitor Robert Warshaw.

Warshaw wrote that the monthly status report due in June had been delayed by "disturbing circumstances," noting that "local, national and international media have been full of reports of the sometimes salacious and often shocking details of this ever burgeoning matter" involving a questionable internal affairs investigation and the following resignation of three police chiefs last month.

Former Chief Sean Whent's resignation is reportedly linked to the discovery that several OPD officers allegedly sexually exploited the teenage daughter of a police dispatcher.

The woman, who uses the pseudonym Celeste Guap, told reporters last month that she slept with more than a dozen Oakland police officers, and many more from other agencies. She said she had sex with some OPD officers when she was a minor, including Brendan O'Brien, who died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in September.

According to the East Bay Express, O'Brien's death and the suicide note he left sparked the internal investigation that U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson wrote in a March order had "inconsistencies" and potentially violated Oakland's agreement with the court. Henderson oversees the settlement of a lawsuit stemming from the Riders case, in which Oakland police officers were found to have abused suspects and violated their civil rights.

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Whent resigned June 10 "against this background and the initial mismanagement of this case by OPD leadership," according to the status report. "It is not an understatement to say that that these matters have consumed the OPD’s and City’s leadership; this is a crisis," Warshaw wrote.

Multiple investigations were prompted from the initial probe. Those reviews, from inside and outside of the department, are ongoing.

OPD is out of compliance with court-ordered tasks related to its internal affairs division because of the pending investigation. The independent monitor also found failures to properly document an interview or take a report in two of 15 internal affairs cases.

The report notes higher stop-and-search rates but lower evidence recovery rates for African-Americans compared with any other race. It recommends OPD embrace the findings of a recent Stanford University study. The research found African-Americans were four times more likely than white suspects to be searched during a stop and were also more likely to be handcuffed. It makes 50 recommendations for the Police Department to improve its relationship with Oakland communities.

The independent monitor's report repeatedly directs the Police Department to hold higher-ranking officers accountable for lapses in supervision.

But Warshaw praised Mayor Libby Schaaf's "important and needed leadership and she has worked to stabilize the environment in both the Department and the community," and expressed confidence in City Administrator Sabrina Landreth, who Shaaf placed in charge of the department on June 17.

Read the independent monitor's status report below:

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