Oakland loses 3rd police chief amid growing scandals
Oakland, Calif. — The Oakland Police Department lost its third police chief in eight days as it struggles with allegations that a number of officers had sex with a teenage prostitute and exchanged racist text messages.
Mayor Libby Schaaf said acting Police Chief Paul Figueroa was on the job for two days before stepping down on Friday but said his decision was not connected to the two scandals.
However, she denounced the department’s “toxic, macho culture” and vowed to root out “the bad apples.”
“As the mayor of Oakland, I’m here to run a police department, not a frat house,” Schaaf said at a news conference Friday evening.
Schaaf said she will not immediately appoint an acting or interim chief. Instead, the command staff will report to City Administrator Sabrina Landreth, who will be responsible for personnel and disciplinary decisions.
“This is the appropriate time to install civilian oversight in this police department,” Schaaf said. “I want to assure the citizens of Oakland that we are hell bent on rooting out this disgusting culture.”
The police department was already engulfed by the sex scandal when Schaaf revealed at the news conference a separate investigation into racist text messages that she said were “wholly inappropriate and not acceptable from anyone who wears the badge of the Oakland Police Department.”
Schaaf said the number of officers involved is not as widespread as those involved in the sex scandal, but cautioned that the investigation was ongoing. One of the officers under investigation in the text scandal has been placed on leave, she said.
Some of the officers being investigated were “engaging in hate speech,” and others were “tolerating it” by receiving offensive messages and not reporting them, Schaaf said.
She said Figueroa has taken a leave of absence and asked to return to the force as a captain, not as an assistant chief.
Schaaf appointed Figueroa on Wednesday after abruptly removing the interim police chief, Ben Fairow, after learning unspecified information that led her to lose confidence in his ability to lead the beleaguered department. She had appointed Fairow after Chief Sean Whent suddenly resigned June 9.
Two officers with the troubled Oakland department have resigned amid the sex scandal, and three others remain on paid leave.
The scandal involving at least 14 Oakland police officers is another blow to a department already under federal oversight over past failures to adequately hold officers accountable for misdeeds that included planting evidence and robbing residents in predominantly black west Oakland.