A California highway patrolman says that for several years he has participated in a “game” in which he and other police officers shared explicit pictures they had taken from the cell phones of female arrestees.
Sean Harrington, a 35-year-old CHP officer, was initially being investigated for sending five explicit pictures from the cell phone of a 23-year-old woman he had arrested on Aug. 29 for a DUI, the Contra Costa Times reported.
The woman came forward earlier this month and told authorities that during her DUI stop — during which she registered a 0.29 blood-alcohol level — Harrington asked for the password to her cell phone, which she provided.
The woman told authorities that she later discovered that content from her Apple iPhone had been transferred to an unknown phone number while she was in custody. The record of the forwarding was deleted from the phone, but it showed up on her iPad – the two devices were synced. When she did not recognize the number to which the photos had been sent, she researched and found that it belonged to Harrington.
As disturbing as that allegation is, the Contra Costa Times dove deeper and uncovered several new twists.
According to court records obtained by the Times, Harrington said that he had done the same thing to other women “half dozen times in the last several years.”
And worse, other officers had taken part as well.
“Harrington said he first learned of this scheme when he was working in the Los Angeles office,” Contra Costa County district attorney investigator Darryl Holcombe wrote in an affidavit for an Oct. 14 search warrant.
“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.”
In the affidavit, Holcombe determined that Harrington should be charged with felony computer theft.
During the course of his investigation, Holcombe reviewed jailhouse surveillance footage to establish the timing of the photo transfer. He found that the woman was in custody when the photos were sent from her phone.
The court records also show that on Aug. 7 Harrington had hacked into the phone of another woman who had been involved in a DUI accident. He forwarded two photos of the woman wearing a bikini, accompanied by the text message sent to fellow CHP officer Robert Hazelwood which read, “Taken from the phone of my 10-15x while she’s in X-rays. Enjoy buddy!!!”
According to the Contra Costa Times, “10-15x” is code for a woman in custody.
“No f—— nudes?” Hazelwood replied.
Harrington sent the same photos to another CHP officer named Dion Simmons. Simmons sent text messages back which read “Nice” and “Hahahaaaa.”
“Just rerun a favor down the road buddy. :)” Harrington replied.
In his affidavit, Holcombe reported that Harrington and Hazelwood had exchanged crude messages when discussing the pictures of the woman who sparked the investigation.
Hazelwood asked to see the woman’s “dl,” which could be a reference to her driver’s license. He also sent a text message to Harrington which read “Nudes are always better with the face.”
CHP commissioner Joe Farrow condemned the officers’ alleged actions.
“The allegations anger and disgust me,” Farrow said, according to the Contra Costa Times. “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.”
“The callousness and depravity with which these officers communicated about my client is dehumanizing, horribly offensive and degrading to all women,” said Rick Madsen, who represents the woman who reported Harrington. “It’s going to lead to another level of mistrust and skepticism to the motive of law enforcement in general.”