The California Highway Patrolâ€™s top Bay Area official has condemned the actions of officers who allegedly shared revealing photos stolen from womenâ€™s cell phones and promises to vigorously investigate the incidents â€” which may result in charges being filed this week.
At a hastily called news conference late Saturday night, Avery Browne, chief of the CHPâ€™s Golden Gate Division, denounced reports that at least two officers assigned to the CHPâ€™s Dublin office had exchanged crude text messages commenting about the bodies of two women whom one of the officers had encountered while out on patrol.
â€œThe allegations that have been brought forward are disappointing,â€ Browne said at division headquarters in Vallejo. â€œThey are disgusting, and they have angered my staff, top management, executive management of the California Highway Patrol. The callousness and depravity with which these officers communicated about women is dehumanizing, horribly offensive and degrading to all women.â€
Prosecutors are expected to decide this week whether anyone will face criminal charges.
Bikini photos of a 19-year-old woman were allegedly stolen by CHP Officer Sean Harrington, 35, of Martinez as she was undergoing X-rays after being involved in a DUI crash in Livermore in August.
â€œTaken from the phone of my 10-15x while sheâ€™s in X-rays,â€ Harrington allegedly texted fellow Dublin CHP Officer Robert Hazelwood. In police parlance, â€œ10-15xâ€ refers to a female arrestee. Hazelwood in turn responded, â€œNo fâ€” nudes?â€ senior inspector Darryl Holcombe wrote in a search warrant affidavit.
Later that month, Harrington secretly forwarded at least five photos of a 23-year-old woman he had arrested for DUI in San Ramon, authorities said.
That woman found out what happened when she looked at her iPad, which is synced to her iPhone, authorities said. She hired lawyer Rick Madsen and notified the district attorneyâ€™s office, investigators said.
Madsen said he appreciated Browneâ€™s statements but noted that his client had discovered what happened by chance. â€œIt’s a reasonable speculation to imagine how often it has occurred undetected,â€ Madsen said. â€œWho knows how many officers have participated in this so-called ‘game,â€™ or how many more women have been victimized?â€
Prosecutors opted not to charge the woman in her DUI case because of Harringtonâ€™s alleged conduct, court records show. Browne lauded her for coming forward.
Records from Harringtonâ€™s cell phone revealed he had traded texts about womenâ€™s photos with at least Hazelwood and another officer considered a witness in the case, authorities said.
In an interview with district attorneyâ€™s inspectors, Harrington admitted to stealing photos and â€œdescribed this scheme as a game,â€ the affidavit says.
Holcombe wrote in the court records that he believed Harrington, Hazelwood and others unlawfully accessed a computer system and stole computer data.
Without identifying any officers by name, Browne said two Dublin CHP officers have been removed from patrol duties and are facing an internal investigation.