In just a few weeks’ time, an astonishing pattern of misconduct has been uncovered in the Oakland Police Department that might shock even our readers. At the center of the scandal is a teenage sex worker who goes by Celeste Guap. She alleges that at least three Oakland PD officers sexually exploited her when she was underage. She also alleges that she traded sex for information with some of these police officers, traded sex for protection with others, and “dated” yet another officer, both before and after her eighteenth birthday. Even officers from surrounding municipalities were involved with Guap. In an interview with local reporters, Guap indicated that she felt the officers took advantage of her but she didn’t have any anger towards them. Guap did what she had to do to survive, but either way, going by the federal definition, Guap is a human trafficking victim and the officers are her traffickers.
Sex workers have long maintained that the police are the biggest hindrance to their work, and quite often, the biggest threat to their safety. For every sex worker “rescued” by LE, another one is arrested by LE, or trapped in an LE-sponsored diversion program, or coerced by LE, or literally pimped out by LE. While what happened at the Oakland PD might be an extreme example, it’s certainly isn’t rare. Here are a few other police department scandals that involved sex workers this year:
In Texas, a Houston police officer was busted and charged with solicitation thanks to an undercover sting.
An NYPD cop from Brooklyn was busted with a “stable of 11 hookers.”
In Ohio, a Columbus police officer received two misdemeanor charges for solicitation and prostitution because he “recklessly solicited and engaged in sexual activity with a woman who has a history of prostitution and drug abuse.”
In Melbourne, Florida, a cop was arrested for a classic soliciting while on duty scenario.
A Honolulu cop was arrested for bribery, prostitution (solicitation) and “unauthorized use of a computer.” (Bonus: this article actually quotes an anti-trafficking advocate explaining that cops are a serious threat to sex workers.)
In Michigan, an Ingham County prosecutor —who had served for almost 30 years—faced 15 criminal charges, including encouraging a minor to do sex work.
In the UK, citizens were outraged after the names of two police officers who had sex with a sex worker while on duty (of course) were withheld from public records.
In New Jersey, two NYPD cops were busted for having sex with a sex worker (while they were on an airplane!), part of a larger FBI investigation into the NYPD focusing on a real estate investor who allegedly gave gifts in exchange for “favors” from the police.
Oops! In Dayton, Ohio, a sergeant from the North Hampton PD was arrested a in sting operation.
In Kansas City, Missouri, an appeals court upheld a puny conviction of “acceding to corruption” that an officer received for not arresting a sex worker because he had sex with her. (The story described the interaction as an exchange, and the jury did not convict him of the original sex assault charge—but we can infer what really happened.)
A retired NYPD cop was busted as a “cyber pimp” who ran “dozens of prostitution websites.”
In Kentucky, per court documents, police officers and legislators were some of the clients of a prostitution ring helmed by a former constable.
A Jacksonville, Florida, police officer was charged with grand theft, petty theft, and official misconduct. He ducked a solicitation and assault charge even though investigators found he paid sex workers for sex and raped another sex worker while in uniform and wearing his gun, threatening her with arrest if she didn’t submit.
That time the police ran a brothel in the eastbay http://www.sfgate.com/crime/article/Cop-ran-Pleasant-Hill-brothel-co-defendant-says-2371681.php
I’m so into the brief analysis in this article published on Tits&Sass by Josephine. Listed are 13 reported cases from throughout the US, within in this year alone, of situations similar to Celeste Guap’s. Can you imagine how disproportionate 13 reported cases is to the actual frequency in which police use their power to sexually exploit people?!
I am sometimes quick and thoughtless to near-glorify women in situations such as Celeste’s. But only under the premise that, in this case, her coming out with these experiences has destabilized the city government and ruined the lives of hella cops. I believe this is objectively worth celebrating but not at the expense of defining Celeste’s intentions, circumstance or afterthoughts.
When a SW in North Carolina, Heather, defensively shot and killed a John–who turned out to be a serial killer–opportunists from every corner jumped online to label her a hero, a victim, and whatever else. As Heather later attested in interviews, she didn’t want the sudden fanfare. She felt confused and, probably, would have liked the time following her experience to spend with herself and those she already knew so she could develop her own understanding of the situation, free from swaths of humans exploiting her experience to move forward their career or ideology.
In Celeste’s case, she says sex with cops happened before and after she turned 18. Not only is american society totally obsessed with victimizing young women (of color) but the last several years’ campaigns against “human trafficking” (with quotes bc how this term has been defined is entirely law-based and manufactured to benefit saviors and politicians) have, among other things, allotted much more power to the police to judge who is a sex-victim. With this kind of power accompanied by the already brutal and predatory nature of cops, one can only imagine how many of these same cops and other cops have similar relationships to women on the streets of Oakland and elsewhere.
Again, it’s important to not determine Celeste’s experience for her. If you don’t know her, have nothing to offer her, care less about what happens to her after this… the best you can do is leave her the fuck alone so she has a fighting chance of preserving her autonomy in this crazy-as-fuck situation she’s in. Another reason running your mouth about her is unfair and all too common, is that somehow people think that calling her a victim will give more power to struggles against the police, legislation, and other state institutions. But, seriously, what the fuck? These pigs make this case against themselves every day.
If you find yourself eager to piece apart this latest spectacle, obsessing and ranting, it’s likely because you have absolutely nothing common with Celeste, nothing in common with sex workers or their perpetual struggle to live free of (police) violence.
If you know you have something to lose at the mention of things like ‘human trafficking’ or ‘police brutality’, here are alternative topics in lieu of multiplying search results for every time Celeste Guap’s name is googled:
We can discuss ways people (SW or not) throughout Oakland can come forward with statements of sexual exploitation safely. By “safely” I mean WITHOUT THE COPS or the politicians who employ them.
OR we can talk about Alameda County D.A. Nancy Omalley’s long term campaign against human trafficking (H.E.A.T. Watch) which has endangered hundreds of SWs throughout the county by shutting down their massage parlors, directing raids and stings and funding brutally insufficient “recovery” programs for people arrested on prostitution charges.
OR we can discuss ways we can exploit the current destabilization within the city government, namely the police department, to benefit our collective revolutionary potential.
OR we can struggle on, like we always do–despite the journalists and other predators who live for spectacles like this–with or without a crisis in the headlines–toward the collective safety of SWs in Oakland and beyond.
??? TLDR: Fuck the police. ACAB. Leave Celeste alone. Build your own revolutionary projects predicated on the inherent and structural exploitation of the state and their police without glorifying or victimizing her experience.
Finally, a big FUCK YOU to all the police, politicians, activists, academics and journalists who’ve exploited Celeste and her experiences.
That time an Oakland cop pretty obviously was running protection for a brothel in downtown Oakland
You can scan through this research and find a great deal of references to police abuses.
It’s not sex-worker specific, but this is the reason I think most police departments cannot be trusted at all in any way:
The police who were convicted were nearly the entire department and they’d been framing people *routinely* for over a decade. They only got caught because one of them was stupid enough to *brag* about it. Most police departments are probably equally crooked.
Some other famous cases of police criminality:
[…] working and drug using Black women by Oklahoma City police officer Daniel Holtzclaw, as well as the sexual exploitation of Latina teenage sex worker Celeste Guap/Jasmine Abuslin by several Oakland …, highlighted the specific and ongoing violence police do to sex workers of color. For this […]