Wow, Oakland. Recently fired/resigned SF Police Chief Greg Suhr had some terrible problems to deal with in the SFPD over the last few years, but the Oakland Police Department is trying really damn hard to outdo SF in the scandal department, and all with a brand new mayor at the helm. As of Friday, Interim Police Chief Paul Figueroa, who had been second in command to Chief Sean Whent prior to his forced resignation a week ago, has stepped down from the post inside of two days, taken a leave of absence, and a demotion. As the East Bay Times reports, Figueroa was "struggling with the stress" of the job, and part of that may have had to do with a racist texting scandal coming to light much like San Francisco's own.
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf opened her press conference Friday, as the Chron reports, saying, "I am here to run a police department, not a frat house," and condemning the racist texts as "wholly inappropriate and not acceptable for anyone who wears the badge of the Oakland Police Department."
Also, to get an idea of the rank and file's opinion of Figueroa after he assumed the chief's job this week, just see the image above of his head on a rat's body that was apparently circulating amongst their smartphones this week.
The racist texts, at least the ones we know of so far, go back two years and were exchanged between two officers in particular, and came to light after those officers had a falling out. Per the EB Times, Lt. Tony Jones, who is African American, had been placed on leave as part of a wider investigation into texts between multiple commanding officers, and his former friend Sgt. Mike Gantt, who is also African American, came forward with some particularly racist messages from Jones after he discovered he was under investigation for something else altogether. One text in particular, on the topic of how cops didn't need to kill African Americans because they were all killing each other, and features a picture of Ku Klux Klan members.
NBC Bay Area obtained images of the offending texts, two of which you can see below.
Gantt allegedly had his girlfriend ghostwrite his homicide investigation paperwork for him, and left key evidence in a 2013 homicide case at her house. Multiple investigations he worked on could be compromised if it comes to light that he made a habit of doing this. Also, as KRON 4 reports, Gantt is married, and said girlfriend published confidential information about that case on a social media site. The case was the murder of 66-year-old Judy Salamon who was found dead in her car after she was allegedly using her cell phone to record two men committing another crime in her neighborhood.
And this of course follows on the scandal we learned of just a week ago involving over a dozen OPD officers and other law enforcement members in SF and the East Bay who are accused variously of abetting sex trafficking, statutory rape, and exchanging classified information for sex with a sex worker a case that led to the suicide of one officer last fall. As the East Bay Express puts it, "Oakland now resembles Game of Thrones sans tunics, swords and dragons."
After already having to fire Interim Chief Ben Fairow earlier in the week, Schaaf moved to appoint a civilian woman, City Administrator Sabrina Landreth, to be temporarily in charge of the police department, saying, "I feel that this is an appropriate time to place civilian oversight over this Police Department, to send a clear message about not tolerating misconduct, and to root out what is clearly a toxic, macho culture."
Several Oakland City Coucilmembers immediately spoke out against Schaaf, with Councilmember Noel Gallo saying, "We went from worse to worse" with the appointment of Landreth. "We're left with an administrator, and she doesn't know anything about policing," said Gallo to the East Bay Times.
The paper also quotes Councilmember Desley Brooks saying, "The mayor needs to demonstrate some leadership. I'm extremely disappointed. It's embarrassing for the members of the department as well as the city."
As you may or may not know, the Oakland Police Department has been under federal oversight for thirteen years following another scandal, called The Riders Case, and had been close to completing a lengthy series of reforms when the scandal involving sex worker Celeste Guap came to light in recent weeks.
The LA Times has been all over this story too, and they quote Figueroa, from the press conference, saying, "I thank the city for the opportunity, and I am deeply sorry that I was unable to fulfill the functions of acting chief of police." They also quote Schaaf as saying to a reporter, "I’m hoping to not have to fire anyone else anytime soon."