Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf

A investigation into the handling of the Oakland police sexual misconduct scandal by the department describes a troublesome lax attitude early on toward the allegation and a city administration disinterested in the post-investigation fallout. It was not until the OPD’s federal monitor and the Alameda County District Attorney’s office intervened in the case that the department and city administration ramp up its efforts, the investigators wrote in a 33-page report released Wednesday.

“There is no doubt that, once the Court intervened to ensure the investigation was conducted in a thorough manner, City leaders took the matter seriously and were actively engaged in ensuring OPD investigated thoroughly. They also took the appropriate step of hiring an outside attorney to uncover what had occurred before the Court’s intervention,” according to court-appointed investigators Edward Swanson and Audrey Barron.

Former Oakland Police Chief
Sean Whent

“But when that attorney’s investigation failed to move forward, City leaders did not demand progress or answers. Just as OPD required Court intervention to conduct a thorough investigation, the City required Court intervention to investigate the Department, and that too raises questions of sustainable progress in the absence of Court supervision.

The report also raises question of whether the OPD, under federal supervision for more than decade, is really any closer to shedding its oversight. “The fundamental problem is that it took Court intervention to cause OPD to investigate the allegations against its officers thoroughly and properly. Had OPD conducted a rigorous investigation on its own, the Department could have demonstrated its ability to police itself without the Court’s supervision. Instead, OPD damaged its reputation by failing to timely report the allegations to the appropriate authorities, by doing such a poor job of investigating the allegations, and by requiring Court intervention to correct course.”

Former Police Chief Sean Whent is also singled-out negatively for his inattention to the severity of the case involving an underage sex worker allegedly participating in sexual activities with his police officers. Similarly, Whent and otherd high up the OPD’s chain of command “did not set a tone that this case was a high priority and required thorough investigation,” the investigators concluded.

Whent also appeared in no hurry to notify the city administrator of the pending investigation in its early stages. City Administrator Sabrina Landreth first learned of the case in March 2016 and immediately alerted Mayor Libby Schaaf, according to the report. The investigators lauded the city’s action upon learning about the case, however, once the investigation was concluded Schaaf and Landreth did little to ascertain why the inquiry had languished before the involvement of the courts.

“Although they took the appropriate step of hiring an outside attorney to investigate this issue, many months passed with no investigative progress, and there is no evidence City leaders pressed to ensure this troubling and important question was being answered,” according to the report.

In a news conference Wednesday, Schaaf accepted the investigator’s criticism and said her attention to the matter was sidetracked by the Ghost Ship fire in the Fruitvale in early December that killed 36 people.