Former OPD captain says he's being unfairly blamed in misconduct scandal

The former Oakland police internal affairs captain said Tuesday that he is being scapegoated in a misconduct scandal that ultimately led to the ouster of the police chief.

Wilson Lau said he never imagined that his 15-year career with the Oakland police would end abruptly.

"To have it in just a blink of an eye, end like this," Lau said in an interview with KTVU at his lawyer's office.

Lau was accused by an outside law firm of botching a department investigation into a sergeant.

"I had applied for east bay regional before any of this even started," said Lau, who transferred to the East Bay Regional Parks police force last year but has since been fired as a captain in that agency.

On Monday, Lau filed a claim, a precursor to a lawsuit, against Oakland, accusing the city of retaliation and discrimination.

"It's just very disappointing when I've given so much to this city, and now the only way to clear my name is to have to go to court," he said.

Lau said he oversaw the internal affairs investigation of Sgt. Michael Chung. Chung is accused of failing to report a crash of a police Chevy Tahoe in his San Francisco parking garage and failing to report the fact that he was dating a fellow officer.

But Lau said an internal affairs report prepared by a sergeant in his unit was full of holes.

"It was an incomplete investigation that I sent back for follow-up work. And later on I find out that the work I told him to do wasn't done," Lau said.

He said the outside law firm unfairly blamed him and found him "not credible." But he says he was on vacation when another internal affairs official signed off that report. 

"And then to come back a year later after it's closed, to be blamed for everything when I never even saw the final product," Lau said.

He added, "This outside investigator chose to ignore everything I put on the table."

But civil rights attorney Jim Chanin, who monitors Oakland police reforms, isn't so sure.

"He had every opportunity to present that as part of his defense, and they didn't accept it," Chanin said.

Lau's attorney Dan Siegel said, "They rushed to conclusions, they ignored the facts of the case and, as a result, Captain Lau's career is completely off track."

Oakland and East Bay Regional Park District officials declined to comment Tuesday on Lau's case.

Later Tuesday, U.S. Distict Judge William Orrick, who is overseeing Oakland police reforms as part of a civil settlement, blasted the "cultural inability of OPD to police itself."

At a hearing in San Francisco, Chanin and civil rights attorney John Burris, as well as Mayor Sheng Thao, addressed Orrick, pledging to bring the department into compliance.

Orrick said he is extending the so-called "sustainability period," or probationary period, which had originally been set to end in June.

The judge scheduled another hearing for Sept. 26.

Henry Lee is a KTVU crime reporter. E-mail him at Follow him on Twitter @henrykleeKTVU and Facebook