FOUR OAKLAND OFFICERS FIRED, SEVEN SUSPENDED AFTER SEX SCANDAL INVESTIGATION
On Wednesday, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and City Administrator Sabrina Landreth announced the conclusion of a year-long administrative investigation into a wild sex scandal within the Oakland Police Department, involving a minor.
Four OPD officers will be terminated (if they have not already left the department) and seven OPD officers will be suspended without pay for their roles in the exploitation of the young woman who calls herself Celeste Guap. One officer—who presumably played a lesser role in the scandal than those fired or suspended— will undergo counseling and training.
In June, Guap told a television station that she had sex with more than a dozen OPD officers, three of whom she reportedly had sex with in 2014 while she was 17. After the news broke about the OPD passing around an underage girl for sex, the police chief resigned. Six days later, Schaaf sacked the interim chief. A few days after that, the mayor sacked the second interim chief. Fed up and vowing to weed out “toxic, macho culture,” Schaaf then placed the City Administrator in charge of the OPD. (Backstory: here.)
During the course of the administrative investigation, led by the City Attorney’s Office and several members of the OPD, investigators interviewed 50 witnesses, conducted 11 interviews with Guap, and reviewed 28,000 texts and 78,000 pages of social media posts. There’s also a separate, independent review by a law firm to “ensure the integrity” of the city review.
Landreth said that the four terminated officers had each committed one or more of these offenses: attempted sexual assault, lewd conduct in public, assisting in the crime of prostitution, assisting in the evading 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 officers’ sexual conduct with the underage Guap, and bringing disrepute to the OPD.
And the seven suspended officers committed one or more of the following offenses: failure to report the officer-minor sexual contact, misusing the databases, and bringing disrepute to the department.
The report highlighted the need for more training to help officers identify and assist victims of sex trafficking. In July, the Special Victims Unit teamed up with Bay Area Women Against Rape to teach officers ways they can better respond to people committing trafficking-related offenses and other victims.
The report also found that officers were misusing criminal databases for personal benefit, and recommended stricter oversight moving forward. Officers reportedly leaked information to Guap about prostitution stings and shared police reports and individual criminal records with her.
After announcing the results of the investigation, Mayor Schaaf said she was “deeply sorry”, particularly to communities that already have trust issues with the department.
“We care deeply about this community and its officers and believe that the outcomes in this case will root out misconduct, encourage a culture of transparency and continue the work of restoring trust.”
IN LA COUNTY, FAR MORE DEFENDANTS DECLARED UNFIT TO STAND TRIAL THAN LAST YEAR
Mid-year estimates predict that there will be 1000 more defendants declared incompetent to stand trial in Los Angeles County in 2016 than in 2015, according to a draft audit from LA County’s Health Agency commissioned by the county Board of Supervisors.
Mental health competency cases in LA County jumped from 944 in 2010 to 3,528 in 2015. Now, LA appears to be on track to hit 4,500 by the end of 2016.
For defendants who may be too mentally ill to understand the charges against them, defense attorneys can seek a competency hearing. Then, if doctors find a particular defendant to be unfit to stand trial, the defendant must submit to treatment in mental hospitals, residential facilities, or in jail. In California, hundreds of mentally ill inmates declared incompetent to stand trial languish in jails waiting for beds to open up at the five state hospitals who can admit them.
Experts and officials are not sure what’s behind the spike in competency cases.
Dr. Mark Ghaly, director of Community Health & Integrated Programs at the L.A. County Department of Health Services called the surge a “symptom” of the justice system acting as a mental health system.
The report recommends boosting community services for the county’s mentally ill.
KPCC’s Rina Palta has more on the numbers. Here’s a clip:
Between 1995 and 2010, California lost about 30 percent of its psychiatric hospital beds.
In L.A. County, acute inpatient capacity has remained constant, and other less acute residential care has grown slightly, but “not at the rate or capacity needed.”
The trend, the report noted, goes beyond Los Angeles County. Referrals for competency evaluations have increased statewide in Wisconsin, Oregon, Washington, and Colorado. But the report noted that those states did not see the high numbers seen in L.A. County.
Nationally, it said, some 900,000 people “with serious mental illness” are admitted to jails in the United States every year, most of them awaiting trial on various charges. Jails are ill equipped to meet their needs, and they end up getting referred out to mental hospitals through programs designed for restoring mental health to the level where a person can meaningfully participate in their own legal defense.
The vast majority of competency cases are people who’re charged with lower-level nuisance crimes, like vandalism, trespassing and resisting arrest.
PROP. 47 DEADLINE EXTENSION BILL MAKES IT TO GOV. BROWN’S DESK
A bill to extend the deadline for Proposition 47-eligible Californians to get their low-level felony convictions reclassified as misdemeanors has passed out of both the state Senate and Assembly and landed on Governor Jerry Brown’s desk for final approval. If passed, the bill would give Prop. 47ers seeking to reduce their felony convictions would—upon a showing of good cause—have an extra five years to apply beyond the current November 2017 deadline.
Back in July, the LA County Board of Supervisors approved a recommendation by County CEO Sachi Hamai to allocate $6.6 million from the county’s budget to help approximately 500,000 people with felonies that qualify for reduction to misdemeanors under Proposition 47, but have not yet taken advantage of the retroactive law.
We’ll keep you updated on the status of this bill and other justice-related measures as Gov. Brown progresses through bill-signing season.
Vice’s Rebecca McCray has more on the bill and its importance. Here’s a clip:
“We already have other statutes that don’t have time limits,” David Greenberg, the chief deputy district attorney of San Diego County, told VICE. “Why are we putting a time limit on this?”
The answer, according to Greenberg, is “politics.” He helped draft the amendment, which was ultimately authored by Shirley Weber, an Assembly member. Yet in testament to the state’s evolving attitude toward crime, despite his support for extending the deadline, Greenberg was actually a strong opponent of Prop. 47 from day one—and remains one.
“It took away a lot of options for us,” Greenberg, who argues that prosecutors already used their discretion to reduce certain felonies to misdemeanors, told me.
But when San Diego County Public Defenders office told the DA it would have to file 150 to 250,000 petitions before the November deadline, Greenberg said, he knew the burden on the court and his office would be untenable. In Los Angeles County, which is the largest in the state, the number of petitions would be at least twice that, Greenberg added.
“The vast majority of people have no idea their felonies could be reduced,” he told me. “You would think with all this publicity that those folks who are cleaning their life up and are eligible would be reaching out, but that’s just not the reality.”
That’s where record-change fairs and “reclassification clinics” come in. Organized by advocates and volunteer attorneys, events like the one on the flyer that caught Duncan’s eye have become a vital way to reach Californians who have never heard of Proposition 47.
“The hurdle is really just getting the word out,” said Lenore Anderson, coauthor of Prop. 47 and executive director of Californians for Safety and Justice, a nonprofit that has hosted record change fairs. “Hundreds of thousands of Californians have [eligible] felony record convictions, but a lot of folks are infrequent voters or may not be aware of the law change.”
The above video of the mayor’s press conference was taken by CBS SF.