OAKLAND (CBS SF) — Allegations that 31 Bay Area law enforcement officials had sex with an underage sex worker and the fact that the public may never know those officers’ names, have prompted protesters and civil liberty advocates to call for increased police transparency laws in California.
Protesters gathered outside the Oakland Police Department Friday to express their outrage following allegations that at least 14 Oakland police officers had sexual relations with a sex worker who says she initially sought police assistance while running from a pimp on Oakland’s International Boulevard.
Among the protesters who gathered outside Oakland police headquarters, one protester held a sign saying, “We have a right to know their names,” referring to the three Oakland officers placed on administrative leave and the two officers who have resigned from the department following the launch of investigations into their involvement in the sex scandal.
Under California law, however, police officer misconduct records remain shielded from public scrutiny and are exempt from the California’s Public Records Act. If no criminal charges are filed against the officers, the public won’t know if which officers were found to be guilty of misconduct or if they were disciplined.
The sex worker, who goes by the name Celeste Guap, told KPIX 5 that sex with officers was often performed in exchange for protection and advanced warning about prostitution stings. Protesters say officers who were supposed to protect the vulnerable took part in human trafficking and statutory rape as Guap — now 18 — was allegedly underage during sexual encounters with three Oakland police officers.
Natasha Minsker, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union of California’s Center for Advocacy and Policy, said in a statement released Friday:
“The nature of these allegations and breadth of this scandal calls into question, once again, police departments’ ability to hold their own officers accountable for job-related misconduct. That so many cities and officers are implicated in this clear abuse of power points to a larger, systemic problem that arises from California’s secretive police misconduct laws. The public may never know the outcome of the investigations connected to this scandal unless someone is actually charged with a crime.”
The ACLU notes that Senate Bill 1286, which “would have lifted this veil of police secrecy,” was stopped just weeks ago from moving forward in the California legislature due to “intense pressure from law enforcement lobbyists.”
On Friday night, and for the third time in a week, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf announced the removal of the acting chief of the Oakland Police Department.
By Hannah Albarazi – Follow her on Twitter: @hannahalbarazi.