The sex scandal involving the Oakland Police Department has exposed the level of corruption throughout all of law enforcement. According to the East Bay Express, at least 28 police officers on multiple occasions had sex with a teenager who was working as a sex worker. The list of officers spans multiple agencies, including at least 14 Oakland police officers, three Richmond police officers, four Alameda County sheriff’s deputies, officers with the Livermore and Stockton police departments and the Contra Costa County sheriff’s department, and a federal officer.
At least three Oakland police officers allegedly had sex with the young woman when she was 17, which constitutes statutory rape. Officers have also been accused of sexual trafficking for introducing the young woman to other officers for the purpose of sex. And there is evidence of officers sending text messages to the young woman to alert her about undercover arrest raids as a form of protection in exchange for sex.
This scandal doesn’t just involve low-ranking officers but high-level officers have also been accused of having sex with the young woman. After the scandal made the news, three consecutive Oakland police chiefs were fired or resigned in eight days. First, Police Chief Whent was fired because he knew of the scandal and covered it up for months. Afterwards, two new replacement chiefs resigned for scandals of their own.
But Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf shouldn’t be let off the hook. Once the sex scandal story began to surface, Schaaf apparently hired a private investigator not to look into the case but to to find out which police officers were speaking to reporters in order to silence them. Schaaf likely knew of the misconduct of the officers for months but didn’t do anything until the scandal was reported in the news.
The Oakland Police department has tried to portray itself as a leader in the fight against human trafficking and the sexual exploitation of women and children. But to have at least 14 officers accused of sexual misconduct, sexual trafficking and at least three officers with charges of rape, just shows how normal this type of corruption is.
The fact that police officers would be dishonest and corrupt, that they would coerce a young woman for sex, that they would be involved in sex trafficking and rape, and that the department and possibly the mayor would cover it all up – all of this is outrageous but not very surprising. This is the same police department that terrorizes poor neighborhoods and guns down black and brown men and boys on a regular basis.
This level of violence and corruption is not unique to Oakland – it exists all across the country. It is the job of police to enforce the poverty, brutality and racism of this society through the use of violence. The threat of violence is necessary to enforce conditions of poverty, degradation and hopelessness on millions of people in this country.
But it is not just the police that are corrupt. What kind of society can lead police officers to think that it is okay to coerce a young woman to have sex with them? Only a society that can rip communities apart with poverty and violence, that can put the profits of banks and corporations over lives of millions of people – only a society that is itself corrupt to the core. Yes, every officer and official linked to this scandal should be thrown out. But that is just one step. We are also going to have to look to throwing out this whole rotten system.