Attorneys Tell Federal Judge OPD Commanders Should Still be Disciplined for Mishandling Sex Crimes Case


John Burris (left) and Jim Chanin. - DARWIN BONDGRAHAM
  • Darwin BondGraham
  • John Burris (left) and Jim Chanin.

The two private attorneys who play a key role in the oversight of the Oakland Police Department plan to argue next week that OPD has failed to hold commanders in the department accountable for mishandling the Celeste Guap sex abuse case.

In a brief submitted to federal court yesterday, attorneys John Burris and Jim Chanin wrote that they "fundamentally disagree with the OPD's decision not to hold individual supervisors and commanders accountable through the disciplinary process for the deficiencies identified in the Swanson report."

As the Express has previously reported, the Swanson report was an examination of how the Oakland police botched the first criminal and internal affairs investigations of multiple cops who sexually exploited an underage girl known as Celeste Guap. In the report by court-appointed attorney Edward Swanson, several high-ranking OPD supervisors were shown to have taken steps that led to the premature closure of these cases.

The City of Oakland is due back in federal court on Oct. 2 for a hearing that will consider whether the Oakland police adequately responded to the sex crime scandal that rocked the department last year, among other issues.

The city released its "Critical Incident Review" of the sex crimes scandal earlier this month, notifying the public and court that it will not be imposing discipline on any more officers, including the police supervisors who mishandled the Guap case.

Last week, OPD Chief Anne Kirkpatrick directed blame at former Chief Sean Whent for the failed investigations that resulted in a virtual coverup until the court-appointed Police Monitor Robert Warshaw learned of the investigations and intervened. Kirkpatrick also defended her decision to promote two of the officers who were shown in the Swanson report to have mishandled the Guap case.

Burris and Chanin wrote in their brief, however, that there are still police officers in charge of the department who are responsible for the poorly conducted investigations and violations of the negotiated settlement agreement. They want these officers disciplined, if possible.

"[W]e are disappointed with [Kirkpatrick's] unwillingness to use the disciplinary process to investigate, and if appropriate, to hold commanders and supervisors accountable for their failings," they wrote.

Burris and Chanin also disclosed in their brief that OPD and the Oakland city administrator told them during several prior conversations that the police commanders who botched the Guap cases can't be disciplined because the one year time limit to investigate and punish them has run out.

But Burris and Chanin write in their brief that this one year time limit may not apply for several reasons. And if it does, it may not rule out discipline because the Swanson report was only finished in June of this year. Because the report provides new evidence of misconduct and violations of department policy, the clock only started running three months ago, giving the city nine more months to impose discipline, the attorneys wrote.

In the City of Oakland's brief submitted to the court yesterday also, City Attorney Barbara Parker wrote that while the city doesn't plan to discipline any more officers, including commanders, for mishandling the Guap case, it does plan on implementing other recommendations made in the Swanson report.

See related PDF JointStatusConfStatement10-2-2017.pdf