Oakland Police Chief Sean Whent tendered his resignation Thursday night, in the midst of a strange and sordid sex scandal allegedly involving his officers and a police dispatcher's young daughter.
News of Whent's resignation, which like that of San Francisco Police Chief Suhr less than one month ago seems to have been only partially voluntary, broke on Twitter and through the East Bay Express last night. Whent was given the opportunity to resign for "personal reasons." BART Police Deputy Chief Benson Fairow is replacing Whent as interim police chief while a national search for a permanent successor will be conducted.
"I am so proud to have served Oakland over the course of my two decade-long career," reads Whent's statement, which was issued from Mayor Schaaf and City Administrator Sabrina Landreth. "When I took this job three years ago as interim chief, I vowed to help move the department forward and make Oakland safer by forging a stronger relationship with members of this diverse community. I am proud to have done that."
Concurrent to Whent's resignation — — and, as many presume, related to it — is the criminal investigation into an Oakland police officer who allegedly engaged in sexual misconduct with a police dispatchers' daughter. That investigation wrapped with no charges filed against one officer in question. According to the Chronicle, two officers resigned and two others were placed on leave during the inquiry.
"The criminal investigation involving a former Oakland police officer is closed," Oakland police spokesperson Johnna Watson said according to the Bay Area News Group writing in the East Bay Times. "The administrative investigation continues."
That investigation and scandal came to light by way of another scandal: The suicide note of a cop, Brendan O’Brien, who took his own life last September per EBX coverage. His suicide followed the death of his wife, also deemed a suicide but originally investigated as a murder by homicide detectives. In O'Brien's note, he indicated the conduct between officers and the dispatcher's daughter, who is now 18. After O'Brien's death, on Facebook she seemed to claim that she had an underage relationship with an officer, a man who had died, perhaps implicating O'Brien.
“There is no question that there are credibility issues with the internal-affairs investigations here,” Oakland attorney John Burris told the EBX. “The investigations that were taking place — although we were not privy to all of them -—were significant and they raised real questions about what the chief knew and when did he know it,” Burris told KQED, saying that Whent resignation nonetheless was "a complete surprise."
As Mayor Libby Schaaf put it to the Bay Area News group at the close of the criminal investigation, "In this case, the conduct that we don't tolerate is not just the sexual misconduct that has caught everyone's attention, but the lying about it and the tolerance of it."
Whent has spent almost twenty years of his life in policing, all of them in Oakland. He began his role as police chief in 2013, as interim chief. The Bay Area News Group recalls in the East Bay Times that when he was sworn in his speech remembered a childhood, spent mostly in Pleasanton, that involved staying with his grandmother in the San Antonio District and listening late at night to the Oakland police scanner. In 2003 he was award a medal of Valor for rescuing a woman involved in a "sideshow" crash from a burning Mustang.
"Chief Whent's decision to resign was a personal choice which we respect," ABC7 quotes Schaaf's news release as saying. "Under his leadership Oakland has gotten safer, experiencing a 39 percent decrease in shootings and murders since 2013, and a 46 percent year-to-date reduction in homicides. Chief Whent has also done the critical work of driving sustainable, principled policing in Oakland."