A Timeline of Events in the Oakland Police Department Sex Scandal
More riddles than answers have cropped up over the Oakland Police Department human trafficking sex scandal, the sordid details of which have spread like wildfire across social media and the world. What is certain is the OPD, in keeping with its longstanding reputation as a disreputable den of corruption, has, yet again, fallen short of the standards local civilians should and must rightfully hold police to.
Though the root of the problems plaguing OPD may be “a toxic, macho culture,” as described by Mayor Libby Schaaf, the triggering event this time around looks to be an 18-year-old local sex worker, given the alias Celeste Guap.
According to reports, Guap — who is the daughter of an OPD police dispatcher — had sexual relationships with 24 police officers, both active and now-retired, from at least five police departments in the Bay area. Seeking “protection” in some cases in exchange for her services — she began doing sex work at age 12 — some of the officers would tip her sensitive police intel about prostitution stings.
As if the circumstances were not bleak enough, one of the officers, Brandon O’ Brien, killed himself in September of last year. In a suicide note found at the scene of his death, he implicated multiple officers — whose names have not been disclosed — who also had a relationship with Guap.
A year prior to O’Brien’s death, his wife, Irma Huerta Lopez, was alleged to have committed suicide in her apartment after a heated argument with O’Brien. However, her sister, Pauline Huerta, never bought the story; she suspected foul play. Her suspicions seemed to be corroborated by the coroner’s report, which revealed that no gun residue was found Lopez’s hands to suggest that she turned a gun on herself.
Similar and related incidents have reached daylight since sex scandal broke. The department is also in the midst of weighing racist text messages exchanged between Black officers, and is investigating Sergeant James Michael Gantt, who violated department protocol by having his mistress ghostwrite homicide reports, information that is confidential to civilians.
It’s also being reported that Sgt. Gantt had previously been fired from OPD in 2013 for similar action. He tipped off one of his friends — who, as it happens, was a rape suspect — about an upcoming car search for the weapon used in the rape that was being investigated.
To give a sense of how everything has unfolded so far, we’ve provided you with a timeline of events. We’ve also taken the liberty of adding the dates of previous police chiefs who were forced to retire because of OPD’s unwillingness to implement reforms:
October 2009: Anthony Batts becomes OPD police chief. Ordered by federal judge to implement reforms in response to The Rider’s incident.
October 2011: Batts retires after a court-appointed monitor, Robert Warshaw, issues a critical report on Batts’ leadership and inability to implement court-appointed reforms.
May 9, 2013: Howard Jordan files for “medical retirement,” one week after federal agent, Thomas Frazier, issues a report criticizing department leadership for mishandling rogue cops.
May 2014: Sean Whent appointed new OPD Chief of Police.
June 2014: Irma Huerta Lopez, wife of OPD cop Brandon O’ Brien, allegedly commits suicide.
January 5, 2015: Libby Schaaf becomes 50th mayor of Oakland, says she believes in “community policing.”
January 6, 2015: Schaaf meets with OPD and praises Whent. “Chief Whent is doing a fine job of reducing crime,” she said, “and that is what matters the most to me.”
February 2015: 17-year-old Guap, running from her pimp, encounters OPD Officer O’Brien. O’Brien releases instead of reporting what happened to her guardian. Afterward, they begin an ongoing sexual relationship.
September 2015: Officer O’Brien kills himself, leaves suicide note implicating colleagues in sex trafficking scandal.
June 9, 2016: Whent steps down as OPD Chief for “personal reasons.” It’s been revealed that Whent, in fact, knew that OPD officers were sexually involved with Guap. BART Police Deputy Chief Benson Fairow steps in as interim police chief.
June 15, 2016: Fairow is replaced by Paul Figueroa, after Mayor Schaaf learned “unspecified information that led her to lose confidence in [Fairow’s] ability to lead the beleaguered department.” According to this report, Figueroa shot an Occupy Oakland and Iraq War veteran in the face.
June 17, 2016: Figueroa tenders resignation.
Undisclosed dates: Two OPD officers connected to scandal have resigned and three were placed on administrative leave.
Oakland PD has been under federal oversight since 2003. Before the events uncovered two weeks ago, federal authorities were on the verge of relaxing that oversight.