June 21, 2017 / 4:48 PM / 2 years ago

Investigator faults Oakland, California over police sex scandal

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The mayor of Oakland, California, failed to thoroughly look into a scandal at the city’s police department after it was revealed that some officers had sex with a teenage sex worker, according to a report filed in court on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO - Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf speaks to members of the media at the scene of a fatal warehouse fire in the Fruitvale district of Oakland, California, U.S. on December 5, 2016. REUTERS/Stephen Lam/File Photo

Three Oakland police chiefs resigned in quick succession last year after the East Bay Express newspaper reported that numerous officers in Oakland and elsewhere sexually exploited the teenager.

Seven current and former San Francisco Bay Area law enforcement officers, including five from Oakland police, were criminally charged last year in connection with the sex scandal, including some charges of sex acts with a minor.

In the report on Wednesday, court investigators Edward Swanson and Audrey Barron found Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and other local officials did not do enough to learn why police had not investigated the allegations more thoroughly.

“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,” the 31-page report said.

Representatives for Schaaf and Oakland police could not immediately be reached for comment.

The Oakland Police Department has been under federal court supervision since 2003 due to accusations that some officers engaged in excessive force and planted evidence.

Oakland officials in January named a high-ranking Chicago law enforcement official, Anne Kirkpatrick, as the first woman to head its police department. Schaaf has publicly slammed the department for its “toxic” and “macho” culture.

Officials at the department became aware of the scandal after an officer killed himself at his home in September 2015.

In his suicide note, the officer wrote that he had interacted with the teenager and she claimed that as a minor she was involved with other Oakland policemen.

The case was assigned to the Oakland Police Department’s internal affairs unit because it contained allegations of sexual misconduct.

But the resulting investigation, including by the internal affairs unit, was “wholly inadequate,” the report said.

“Exacerbating these problems was the tone at the top,” it said, adding that former Police Chief Sean Whent “sent an unmistakable signal that this case was not a priority.”

Whent could not be reached for comment.

Oakland officials last month agreed to pay the woman, who is now 19 years old, nearly $1 million to settle her claim against the city, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Reporting by Dan Levine in San Francisco, Additional reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Marguerita Choy

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