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Disgust and dismay over Oakland police sex scandal as department is called 'a cesspool'

Disgust and dismay over Oakland police sex scandal as department is called 'a cesspool'
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, right, sits with city administrator Sabrina Landreth during a news conference last week about the city's widening Police Department sex scandal. (Eric Risberg / Associated Press)

Residents and local officials reacted with dismay and disgust this weekend to a widening sex scandal that has rocked the Oakland Police Department.

The scandal has claimed several top police officials and left some wondering whether the department needs outside help to truly reform.

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The scandal involves allegations that officers were having inappropriate relationships with a teenage sex worker, possibly while she was underage.

The woman at the center of the sexual misconduct scandal said in a televised interview that she had slept with more than a dozen Oakland police officers. She also accused several officers of having sex with her when she was underage and said she had had sexual encounters with members of several other Bay Area law enforcement agencies.

"As the mayor of Oakland, I am here to run a police department, not a frat house," Mayor Libby Schaaf said Friday. "Today continues to be a day where we are sharing disturbing information with you."

Schaaf vowed to "root out what is clearly a toxic, macho culture" within the city's Police Department.

Oakland Councilman Noel Gallo told KGO-AM (810) on Saturday that federal intervention is needed.

"What occurred this past week and what is going to occur next week is really in terms of confidence, trust, in terms of leadership is certainly, we're going to will be in the great debate from the mayor to the council and anyone who's a government employee," Gallo told the station.

Paul Figueroa, who resigned two days after being appointed Oakland police chief, is seen in 2013.
Paul Figueroa, who resigned two days after being appointed Oakland police chief, is seen in 2013. (Doug Duran / Associated Press)

The scandal comes as the Oakland Police Department appeared to be making progress after years of problems.

Violent crime that once plagued the city was receding, and the department looked close to ending 13 years of federal monitoring sparked by notorious police brutality and racial profiling cases.

Other expressed concern for the woman making the allegations.

"What happened to that girl is terror," said Cat Brooks, a local Black Lives Matter member, in an interview with the East Bay Times. "I never had faith [in the police]. I'm African American, I know better. We have a right to know all officers involved."

Acting Chief Paul Figueroa tendered his resignation to Schaaf on Friday, and the department's command staff now will report to City Administrator Sabrina Landreth, Schaaf said during a news conference Friday evening.

Figueroa was appointed to replace Interim Chief Ben Fairow on Wednesday, after Schaaf said she had received information that made her question Fairow's ability to lead.

Fairow's tenure as Oakland's top cop lasted six days. He had been appointed to replace Chief Sean Whent, who resigned in the wake of the widening sexual misconduct scandal.

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"I'm hoping to not have to fire anyone else anytime soon," said the mayor, laughing in response to a question from a reporter. ​

Schaaf did not say why Figueroa resigned.

In a statement released Friday, Figueroa said, "I thank the city for the opportunity, and I am deeply sorry that I was unable to fulfill the functions of acting chief of police."

Figueroa voluntarily went on leave after resigning the chief's post Friday, Schaaf said.

Schaaf also said Friday that the department was close to finishing an investigation into an exchange of racist text messages between officers.

The text message inquiry does not involve Figueroa, according to Schaaf, who said that situation was "not as widespread" as the sexual misconduct scandal.

According to Schaaf, several African American officers sent and received messages that were "wholly inappropriate and not acceptable from anyone who wears the badge of the Oakland Police Department."

She would not name the officers or disclose their ranks, but the situation is similar to a scandal that recently roiled the San Francisco Police Department, one of several that led to the resignation of Police Chief Greg Suhr.

Schaaf said the investigation of the text messages would be completed within two weeks.

Whent resigned on June 9, in what city officials termed a "personal choice." But three sources with knowledge of the situation told The Times that Whent was let go over his mishandling of an investigation into the sex scandal.

Two officers have resigned and three were placed on administrative leave as a result of the sex scandal, city officials have said.

John Burris, the attorney who negotiated the 2003 settlement that placed Oakland police under federal oversight, said he hoped all of the department's skeletons can be revealed at one time in order to clear a path to real reform.

"It appears to be a cesspool here," he said. "But you gotta keep working at it to drain the swamps."

Follow @JamesQueallyLAT for crime and police news in California.

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