Officer Richard Alvarez resigned in September 2019 while under investigation. Credit: Amir Aziz

An Oakland police officer allegedly had sex while on-duty with a woman he knew had a history of mental illness and who he had detained days earlier, according to newly released police records.

The Oakland Police Department found that the officer engaged in prohibited sexual activity while on duty, compromised criminal cases, and obstructed an internal affairs investigation. The officer, Richard Alvarez, who joined OPD in 2006, resigned in September 2019 during the investigation, records show. 

OPD internal affairs investigators were unable to determine if Alvarez committed crimes of sexual assault under the color of authority. The Alameda County District Attorney’s Office did not file charges against Alvarez. 

OPD recently released the documents under S.B. 1421, which requires law enforcement agencies to produce records of investigations related officer use of force incidents, sexual assault, and acts of dishonesty. 

The Alvarez case is one of the first sexual assault files released by OPD under S.B. 1421 and has echoes of the 2016 investigation of multiple officers accused of sexually exploiting a young woman who went by the name “Celeste Guap.” In that case, OPD officers were accused of committing statutory rape, attempted rape, and providing the 18-year-old with confidential information in exchange for sex, among other allegations. 

Since S.B 1421 went into effect in 2019, more than 100 sexual misconduct cases have been released by different police departments across the state. Studies have suggested police work is conducive to various forms of sexual misconduct and some cases are not reported by the victim out of fear. 

A 2021 KQED analysis of sexual misconduct cases involving 103 officers from departments across the state found that 85 of them engaged in non-consensual or coercive sexual misconduct. The news outlet reported that the records showed nearly half of the officers were never criminally investigated. 

In the case of officer Alvarez, the misconduct took place four years ago and the police department appears to have swiftly investigated and taken steps to discipline the officer.

‘I am here to serve you’

According to OPD records, Alvarez first met the victim on Feb. 27, 2018. He and other officers responded to a call about a “possibly intoxicated juvenile” trying to get into people’s cars near 40th Avenue and Santa Rita Street in East Oakland. Alvarez handcuffed the woman, who was 22 years old, placed her in the back of a patrol car, and contacted her mother. The mother told Alvarez her daughter had a history of suicide attempts, stopped taking her medication prescribed to help her mental health, and recently was committed to a psychiatric hospital. 

Ultimately, the officers determined she had a “bad reaction from mixing alcohol and medication” and released her to her mother’s care. 

A few weeks later on March 14, 2018, Alvarez was working a special assignment when members of his East Oakland squad responded to a call at the 22-year-old’s home, according to the internal affairs investigation. Her mother reported that she was violent and trying to jump out of a second-story window. However, after assessing her the officers decided she did not meet the criteria for a psychiatric hold and instead provided her mom with mental health resources. 

The next day during his shift, Alvarez went to the young woman’s home, without notifying his supervisor or reporting his location to dispatch, according to OPD records. Before leaving, he texted the mother from his work cell phone. 

“I am here to serve you and good luck with everything. Tell (your daughter) not to be nervous with us. We are people just like everyone else. You can call me whenever you need something, or just to say hi,” according to text message logs included in the internal affairs file. 

Not long after, the mother and her daughter each began separately texting Alvarez. A log containing several text messages show they thanked him for his “care and protection.” 

Alvarez responded to a text from the young woman writing, “You can call me Richard. Feel free to reach out if you ever need anything. You can call or text me if you ever need advice or have questions … And don’t be shy ok.” 

The 22-year-old woman told investigators that Alvarez had texted asking if she wanted to have sex and said they texted nude photos to each other. Days later, the officer returned to the home on back-to-back days during his shift while the mother was at work, according to OPD records. 

According to an investigation by the Community Police Review Agency, the Police Commission’s investigative arm, Alvarez and the young woman “made out” during the first visit. Later, during the first or second visit,  “Ofc. Alvarez touched her breasts. During the second visit, Complainant alleges that Ofc. Alvarez told her to lie on her bed and she told him she didn’t want to do that. She alleges that he told her again to lie down, this time in a more firm manner (which she describes as talking like a police officer).” 

The young woman called OPD on March 26, telling dispatchers she had possibly been sexually assaulted by a police officer and was worried she would get in trouble for threatening a police officer because she sent angry text messages to Alvarez. Upon hearing this, OPD Internal Affairs and the Community Police Review Agency each opened investigations.

The woman later told OPD investigators she felt Alvarez took advantage of her. “I was really mad because if he would have done this with a different female who was going through, who was going through some kind of mental weakness state, I don’t know, she might have harmed herself maybe. You can’t just go around in the community and do this to people not knowing what it’s going to cost them, or cause them to do,” she said.

Investigators got a search warrant to seize Alvarez’s work and personal cell phones and determined that the “personal” number he gave the woman was actually associated with an app he installed on his phone. By the time the phone was in the hands of investigators, the app was no longer installed and some of the call logs were missing. 

During her interview with investigators, the 22-year-old was asked whether she thought Alvarez would arrest her or take her to jail if she rejected his sexual advances. She said yes. Before, during, and after the sexual activity Alvarez was in uniform, wearing his gun, with his police radio on, the woman alleged.

OPD took steps to discipline the officer, but he never faced criminal charges

Officer Alvarez was placed on administrative leave on May 4, 2018, and resigned on Sept. 11, 2019. Records also show the woman’s mother had sent numerous romantic text messages to Alvarez and alerted him of the internal affairs and criminal investigations. 

Both the OPD IA and CPRA investigations concluded Alvarez engaged in prohibited sexual activity while on duty, compromised the criminal case, and obstructed the internal affairs process by deleting evidence from his phone. He also violated policy by having an intimate relationship on duty, was “loafing and idling” instead of answering calls for service, and he brought disrepute on the department. 

The city also sustained findings against him for insubordination and refusal to testify for not appearing for his IAD and CPRA interviews and ignoring a subpoena issued by the Police Commission. 

An attorney for Alvarez did not respond to an email seeking comment for this story. 

In a statement, police Chief LeRonne Armstrong said Alvarez “violated the public’s trust, department policy, and the law.” 

“Anytime officers violate the trust of our community there will be consequences,” Armstrong said. “Building trust within our community is quintessential, and when officers fall outside of our values, policies, and practices, we will hold ourselves accountable.”

David DeBolt reported on City Hall and policing for The Oaklandside. He spent 12 years working for daily newspapers in the Bay Area, including on the Peninsula and Solano County. He joined the Bay Area News Group in 2012 where he covered a variety of beats, most recently as a senior breaking news reporter. During his time at BANG, DeBolt covered Oakland City Hall, the Raiders stadium saga and the A’s search for a new ballpark, as well as the Oakland Police Department and police reform efforts. He was part of the East Bay Times staff honored with the Pulitzer Prize in Breaking News for coverage of the Ghost Ship warehouse fire.