There is a lot of instability right now in our community which is bringing us together on the issue of gun... https://t.co/T9EzHvpiOW— D Mendoza Consulting (@Champ4Justice) June 16, 2016
Yesterday's abrupt announcement by Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf that she was relieving Interim Police Chief Ben Fairow of his duties after only five days raised a few questions which Schaaf only vaguely answered in a news conference and statement. She said, "I firmly believe that when you make a mistake you need to own it, and act quickly to correct it." Further, she explained that "new information" had led to her abrupt decision, and as Matier & Ross report via sources, Schaaf failed to do any background check on Fairow before appointing him to the position late last Thursday to replace resigning Chief Sean Whent.
Fairow has been serving as Deputy BART Police Chief and it appears he will continue to do so following this brief blip. BART Police Chief Kenton Rainey issued a statement Wednesday evening welcoming Fairow back to his department, and revealing, "Ben has shared information with me that, while he was married, he had a personal relationship with a consenting adult more than a decade ago, none of which precludes him from serving as a sworn law enforcement officer or as one of my Deputy Chiefs."
Something about this doesn't quite add up, however, and a single extramarital affair doesn't sound like the kind of thing that would disqualify a person from being an effective chief of police, especially an interim one.
The Mercury-News mentions that Fairow also, allegedly, "had inappropriate sexual contact with another employee during his earlier stint with OPD, possibly influencing Schaaf's decision." And that OPD employee is not the one referred to in the above affair.
Another detail the Chronicle brings up may get more to the heart of Fairow's firing:
Fairow served for 21 years in Oakland’s Police Department before moving to become deputy chief at BART police, where he came under fire last year for the death of Sgt. Tom Smith, who was inadvertently shot by a colleague.
In a federal lawsuit filed in May 2015, Smith’s widow, Kellie Smith, who was a BART police officer at the time of the shooting, accused Fairow of denigrating his rank and file and even calling them “pussies” when they asked for additional training.
You may recall that Smith was the first BART officer to be killed in the line of duty when he was shot in January 2014 in a friendly-fire incident in Dublin. He and other BART Police officers were searching a suspect's home relating to some robberies on BART property when an officer shot and fatally wounded Smith. The incident prompted his widow, fellow BART officer Kellie Smith, to sue the department alleging that officers were improperly trained for this kind of work. At the time, in a letter to BART, Smith wrote, "My husband said to me [prior to the shooting], ‘if anything happens to me, I want you to sue the shit out of BART and Fairow.'"
Yeah, it kind of sounds like that has more to do with this firing than an affair.
As of Wednesday, Oakland's Assistant Police Chief Paul Figueroa has taken over as Interim Chief of Police, and KRON 4 briefly interviewed him.
And in related news that may or may not have any legs, The Examiner reports that the SFPD is now just making sure that none of its officers had any contact with the sex worker at the center of the whole Oakland scandal, Celeste Guap.
Previously: Oakland Police Sex Scandal Deepens With More East Bay Officers Implicated, Interim Oakland Chief Fired