A California Highway Patrol officer accused of stealing nude photos from the cell phones of DUI suspects has told investigators he and other officers have been doing it for several years.
According to documents acquired by the Contra-Costa Times, CHP Officer Sean Harrington, who was accused of stealing photos earlier this week, confessed to stealing explicit photos from the cellphone of a second Contra Costa County DUI suspect in August and sharing them with fellow officers, describing it as a “game.”
Harrington told investigators he has been stolen photos “half dozen times in the last several years,” forwarding them with leering text messages to fellow officer Officer Robert Hazelwood.
The investigation into Harrington began following an Aug. 29 arrest of the San Ramon woman who discovered photos had been stolen from her phone five days after her release, when she noticed on her iPad that the photos had been sent to an unknown number. According to the woman, a record of the messages had been deleted from her iPhone but the information was available on the iPad which was synched to the phone.
After contacting authorities, Contra Costa district attorney inspector Darryl Holcombe compared video surveillance and time-stamped text messages from the woman’s phone and determined Harrington was in possession of the woman’s phone at the moment the photos were forwarded. The woman was being processed in the Martinez County Jail at the time when the photos were stolen, according to court records.
Harrington admitted under questioning that he stole five photographs from the woman and forwarded at least one to Hazelwood.
“Harrington said he first learned of this scheme when he was working in the Los Angeles office,” Holcombe wrote in an affidavit. “Harrington said when he was assigned to the Dublin office, he learned from other officers that they would access the cell phones of female arrestees and look for nude photographs of them. Harrington said if photographs were located, the officers would then text the photographs to other sworn members of the office, and, to non-CHP individuals. Harrington described this scheme as a game.”
Authorities have discovered texts with photos from Harrington to Hazelwood discussing one woman’s “rocking body.”
CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow said in a statement that his agency is conducting an investigation too,
“The allegations anger and disgust me,” Farrow said. “We expect the highest levels of integrity and moral strength from everyone in the California Highway Patrol, and there is no place in our organization for such behavior.”
According to an attorney for one of the women, the actions of the officers could have far reaching consequences in cases the officers are involved in.
“The callousness and depravity with which these officers communicated about my client is dehumanizing, horribly offensive and degrading to all women,” attorney Rick Madsen said. “It’s going to lead to another level of mistrust and skepticism to the motive of law enforcement in general.”
Neither officer has been charged, however Deputy District Attorney Barry Grove said he expects a decision about charges against officers in the CHP swept up in the probe will be made next week.