An 18-year-old woman going by the name Celeste Guap claims she's had sex with 28 Bay Area police officers, sometimes in exchange for cash or confidential information, including the locations of planned prostitution stings. According to NBC, Guap alleges that four of those incidents occurred while she was underage. These allegations have worsened progressively in the last few days—Guap initially told two other local news agencies that she'd had sex with at least 14 officials, including three underage sex acts.
As reported by NBC, there have now been six law enforcement officials—five officers and one deputy—placed on administrative leave as a result of Guap's allegations. Two of those officers have resigned. "To think that officers were engaged in the sexual exploitation of a child—it's heartbreaking," said Oakland City Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney. According to a statement Guap gave to the East Bay Times, many of the officers she was involved with knew she was underage. "A lot knew I was underage because they nicknamed me 'juve,' which is short for juvenile," she told the paper. Sources also claim that Oakland Police Chief Sean Whent—who recently resigned for "personal reasons"—had mishandled the situation and potentially known about the allegations for months.
Joe Giacalone is a retired sergeant of the New York City Police Department (NYPD), where he worked for 20 years, and a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. In an interview with Broadly, he explained that corruption undermines the goal of law enforcement, and destroys the relationship between the public and police. "All forms of corruption really get under my skin," he says.
Stories of police corruption are not new. Last year, for example, an Oklahoma City police officer named Daniel Holtzclaw was sentenced to 263 years in prison after it was revealed he had systematically sexually assaulted 13 black women while on duty.
But Giacalone believes there has been an increase in cases like this because of the lowering of hiring standards in police departments across the US, which has led to a relaxation in law enforcement. "We take people with criminal records now," Giacalone says. "Years ago, if you had a conviction for any type of crime, you were automatically disqualified." (While many police departments disqualify candidates with a felony conviction outright, there are some that hire "on a case-by-case circumstance.")
While many officers do their jobs well, the profession also attracts people who wish to be in control but who are not necessarily interested in justice, Giacalone says. "You are in total control of everybody's destiny, so to speak," he says.
Guap, who was involved in sex work at the time of the alleged incidents, has claimed that officers gave her information about sting operations, warning her not to go to certain streets at certain times because the police would be there working undercover. Giacalone says this is basically unforgivable; in law enforcement, revealing information about police operations is a "cardinal sin" because it puts officers in danger.
The federal government has been monitoring the Oakland Police Department, which has a long history of corruption, for 13 years. According to PBS, the monitoring period began after an incident in which officers were accused of assaulting, robbing, and framing residents of a "poverty stricken neighborhood."