Chief Fairow, Mayor Schaaf and Celeste Guap (teen prostitute in the middle of scandal)
“Who knows what’s going to happen next?” “I really feel like this is reading like a bad novel, but no one would write it, because no one would believe it.”
…what is really going on here?
The city of Oakland, California, has lost its second police chief in less than a week amid a huge misconduct scandal that appears to involve more than a dozen cops and allegations of statutory rape by multiple officers.
Oakland’s mayor, Libby Schaaf, announced the “immediate removal” of Ben Fairow as interim police chief on Wednesday – just six days after she appointed him as the replacement of chief Sean Whent, who himself abruptly left the embattled department during a growing controversy surrounding the alleged sexual exploitation of a minor.
Police Chief Fairow and Mayor Schaaf on right
State law prevents Mayor Schaaf from providing details on why she was removing Fairow. She released a statement: “I have just received information that has caused me to lose confidence in Ben Fairow’s ability to lead the Oakland Police Department (OPD) at this particular moment in time … I made the decision to appoint Ben Fairow, I also own the decision to remove him. I firmly believe that when you make a mistake, you need to own it, and act quickly to correct it.”
In recent months, officer misconduct scandals have piled up in Oakland, the city across the bay from San Francisco, which also recently lost its chief in the wake of increasing backlash over fatal police shootings.
The most high-profile scandal in Oakland surrounds officer Brendan O’Brien, who reportedly committed suicide and left a note that launched an investigation into allegations of widespread misconduct. Local paper East Bay Express uncovered that three officers had allegedly had sexual relations with a teenage girl when she was underage and, according to the girl, was working as a sex worker.
Celeste Guap the teenage prostitute in the middle of the scandal
If the allegations are true, the officers, according to state law, committed statutory rape and were engaged in human trafficking since the young woman was a sex worker.
In total, at least 14 Oakland officers and eight officers from neighboring law enforcement agencies reportedly took advantage of the teenager, who is now 18 years old and whose mother is a dispatcher in the department, according to the Express.
The sexual misconduct scandal, which has led a number of officers to be placed on leave and others to resign, came after allegations emerged that O’Brien may have killed his wife and gotten away with it. Police said the 2014 death of O’Brien’s wife was a suicide, but a coroner called it “suspicious”, and two bullets had been fired from O’Brien’s gun in his wife’s death.
Schaaf insisted that Whent resigned for personal reasons when she announced his departure in a late-night press release on Thursday.
Jim Chanin, a civil rights attorney who has long monitored the department, said he was scheduled to meet with Fairow on Wednedsay afternoon and that the news of his removal came as a shock.
“Who knows what’s going to happen next?” Chanin said. “I really feel like this is reading like a bad novel, but no one would write it, because no one would believe it.”
With the misconduct case involving so many officers, including many new recruits, Chanin said it appears the scandal is deeply rooted in the department.
Regarding Whent’s departure, Chanin said: “We have to move on. He may be gone, but the problem is still here.”
Schaaf said assistant chief Paul Figueroa is stepping up as acting chief, making him the third head of the department in one week.