Oakland mayor, police chief appear before federal judge over botched investigation

The Mayor of Oakland, chief of police and city attorneys appeared in federal court Monday to respond to allegations that the city mishandled the investigation into police sexual misconduct. 

Oakland Police Department has been under Federal Judge Thelton Henderson's oversight for more than 14 years, ever since the 'Riders' misconduct case. So when this new sex scandal erupted, the judge was not pleased.

He ordered city and police officials to appear before him to explain why they bungled the internal investigation. 

Cameras were not allowed at the hearing as Henderson took city officials to task for an internal investigation he said was severely mishandled. 

Jasmine Abuslin, the daughter of an Oakland Police dispatcher, says officers sexually exploited her, when she was an underage sex worker, who went by the name Celeste Guap. 

A court-appointed investigator filed a report last month saying the department's Internal Affairs Investigation treated Abuslin more as a suspect than a victim. 

The report also said then-Oakland Police Chief Sean Whent didn't consider the case a priority and failed to keep city leaders and a federal monitor  informed about it. 

Abuslin's attorney John Burris is also one of the original civil attorneys in the Riders case. 

He said he's seen plenty of broken promises from a revolving door of police chiefs. 

"I hope this isn't, as I said in court, deja vu all over again," Burris said. "We've had many hearings over 17 years, with the police chiefs' good-faith intention, coming before the court, Chief (Wayne) Tucker, Chief (Anthony) Batts, and they would come before the court and tell them all the great things they would do, and then nothing happened."

City officials said they are now lowering the threshold for when they report suspected officer misconduct to prosecutors. 

Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick told the judge, "I am the Chief now, so I apologize."  

Kirkpatrick and Mayor Libby Schaaf pledged to do better, even with revelations that the chief has promoted to her command staff some of the officers who were criticized for botching the investigation into the sex scandal. 

"We have a clear direction about how OPD will become the best agency that we can be," Kirkpatrick said. "It's certainly my vision, and my mission for the Oakland Police Department to not only heal and apologize for our shortcomings, but to also move forward."

Schaaf said, "The city has learned that we not only have to do a better job of holding individual officers accountable, we have to hold ourselves accountable as leaders, for the system, for the policies, for the training that we provide, not just for the Police Department."

The judge's oversight of the department is part of a 2003 settlement from a class action suit charging police corruption.