New OPD acting chief promises to restore trust amid sex scandal

Byby Laura Anthony and Cornell Barnard KGO logo
Thursday, June 16, 2016
New OPD acting chief promises to restore trust
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Oakland's newest interim police chief is promising to restore trust in a department amid a growing sex scandal involving Oakland and several other Bay Area departments.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- Oakland's newest interim police chief is promising to restore trust in a department amid a growing sex scandal involving Oakland and several other Bay Area departments."I'm focused on getting the job done," Oakland Police Department acting police chief Paul Figueroa said.

Figueroa said being appointed top cop was a surprise, but he's getting right to work.

Officials announced Oakland Police interim Chief Ben Fairow has been relieved of his duties.

On Wednesday afternoon, officials announced an inspector in the Alameda County District Attorney's Office was put on administrative leave in possible connection to the widening sex scandal involving a teen girl. "While it is our practice not to discuss pending investigations, I can firmly state 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 a law enforcement officer," Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley said. "The alleged conduct of the officers in this matter is not in line with what our office and the wider community feel is acceptable for those who are sworn to protect and serve."

WATCH VIDEO: Several Bay Area officers under investigation for possible involvement in sex scandal

Last week Oakland Mayor Libby Schaff said Fairow was the person who could lead the city's department through a difficult time. On Wednesday, she had to acknowledge she made a mistake. "I take responsibility for this decision," she said.

Just six days after appointing Fairow, Schaaf had to take it back after learning new information about her selection. "The information that I received raised concerns for me about whether he can effectively lead this department at this particular moment in time and during this critical transition," Schaff said.

"I'm extremely grateful for the opportunity," Fairow said.

Fairow was on loan from the BART police force. Before that, Fairow spent many years with the Oakland Police Department. "I'm shocked, my members are seeking some kind of stability and this is the furthest you could come from stability," Oakland Police Officers Association spokesperson Barry Donelan said.

Schaaf brought Fairow in last week, when former Oakland Police Department Chief Sean Whent resigned amid a growing sex scandal involving as many as 14 Oakland officers and inappropriate relationships with a teenager who calls herself Celeste Guap.

Although Schaaf wouldn't say what information led her to dismiss Fairow, ABC7 News learned he had an inappropriate sexual relationship years ago that is unrelated to the current Oakland Police Department scandal. "Everything that's been going on since this story broke has been embarrassing. The question is how much more embarrassing can it get," Oakland City Councilmember Larry Reid said.

The BART police chief welcomed Fairow back to his ranks releasing a statement saying: "Ben has shared information with me that while he was married, he had a personal relationship with a consenting adult, more than a decade ago. None of which precludes him from serving as a sworn law enforcement officer or as one of my deputy chiefs."

While Schaaf named Figueroa as the acting chief, she said she plans to look outside the department for a permanent replacement.

Earlier, Burris and Jim Chanin annouced they want increased federal oversight of the Oakland Police Department's recruitment and hiring practices, given the officers involved in the current sex scandal were all hired after 2013.

The sex scandal has been confined to departments in the East Bay, but ABC7 News learned Wednesday that San Francisco police are now also conducting a review to determine if any of their officers had inappropriate contact with the teen girl at the center of the sex scandal in the East Bay.

Click here for full coverage on the Bay Area police sex scandal.