Written by The Business Journal Staff
(AP) — A district attorney in California has placed an investigator on leave in connection with a widespread law enforcement sex scandal, saying her agency will not ignore human trafficking or the sexual exploitation of a minor.
The move Wednesday by Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley came after an 18-year-old woman alleged in media interviews that two dozen current and former officers in five San Francisco Bay Area cities had sex with her while she was working as a prostitute.
Encounters with three of the officers took place when she was a minor, the woman has said.
O’Malley did not identify the investigator or specify why the person had been placed on administrative leave.
O’Malley said in a statement that “we do not and will not turn a blind eye to human trafficking or the sexual exploitation of a minor, whether the offender is a civilian or law enforcement officer.”
The disclosure came as the interim police chief in Oakland was abruptly removed after six days on the job amid the scandal that Mayor Libby Schaaf said involved “disgusting allegations.”
Schaaf said new information she received Monday sapped her confidence in the ability of interim Chief Ben Fairow to lead the beleaguered department.
Fairow had been an assistant chief for the regional transit system and previously spent 21 years as an officer in Oakland. He became interim chief after Oakland police Chief Sean Whent abruptly resigned last week.
The mayor said she should have taken more time to vet Fairow and called his appointment a mistake. State personnel laws prohibit her from elaborating, she said.
“I own the mistake I made. The important thing is I’m trying to fix it and fix it quickly,” she said.
Fairow did not immediately reply to an email seeking comment.
Bay Area Rapid Transit Police Chief Kenton Rainey said he had welcomed Fairow back to his department and that Fairow had informed him that he had an affair with a consenting adult while married more than a decade ago.
That doesn’t preclude “him from serving as a sworn law enforcement officer or as one of my deputy chiefs,” Rainey said.
Two officers with the troubled Oakland department have resigned amid the sex scandal, and three others remain on paid leave.
The scandal involving at least 14 Oakland police officers is another blow to a department already under federal oversight over past failures to adequately hold officers accountable for misdeeds that included planting evidence and robbing residents in predominantly black west Oakland.
The police department in Richmond has said several ranking officers are being investigated for possible contact with the woman or policy violations.
Oakland City Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan has expressed concern about the police department’s ability to investigate its own.
“We have a systemic problem here,” she said.
Assistant Chief Paul Figueroa will serve as acting chief while Schaaf seeks an outside candidate to serve on an interim basis and conducts a nationwide search for a permanent chief.
She said new leadership will be critical to making clear the department does not tolerate “unethical behavior, sexual misbehavior or lying.”
The Associated Press does not generally name people who say they are victims of sex crimes.