Oakland Police Department Quiet on Reasons for Sergeant's Felony Domestic Violence Arrest

A decorated Oakland police sergeant was arrested last year on suspicion of felony offenses in a domestic violence incident that was undisclosed by the police department until recently when it was revealed by a public records request.

According to his arrest report, Sgt. Steve Valle, 41, was arrested on suspicion of threats and assault with a firearm at 3:55 p.m. on Sept. 21, 2015. He was booked into jail on $110,000 bail.

The arrest stemmed from a domestic violence incident reported at 11:36 a.m. that day in the 600 block of Canyon Oaks Drive in Oakland, according to police records. It is unclear whether Valle fired a weapon during the incident.

Oakland police spokeswoman Officer Johnna Watson refused to answer questions about the arrest, saying only, "Investigation continues, we are unable to discuss the circumstances."

The Alameda County District Attorney's Office decided not to prosecute Valle.

"After careful review of all the evidence, we have declined to file charges in this matter," district attorney's spokeswoman Rebecca Richardson said in an email.

The Citizens' Police Review Board opened an investigation into the incident and held a hearing in April. While many of the details of the board's investigations and conclusions remain secret, when the case was closed in April the board sustained one of two allegations brought against Valle.

In recent years, Valle has received a Medal of Merit, a promotion and a citation for exemplary performance. He worked as a police dog handler with the narcotics division before he was promoted to sergeant on Jan. 17, 2014. About seven months before his arrest, he was cited for meritorious and exemplary performance at a ceremony on Feb. 6, 2015.

Valle's arrest remained undisclosed until his arrest report was released as part of a public records request in May. The department had refused multiple public records requests to disclose the arrests of officers, but eventually complied after consulting with the city attorney's office.

Oakland police have continued to refuse to provide further details, citing the ongoing investigation. When asked what portion of the investigation was still ongoing since the criminal case has concluded and what Valle's current status with the department was, Watson did not respond.

While the department lauds its commitment to transparency, it has been slow and reluctant to release information about the arrests of officers and investigations into misconduct.

Officer Cullen Faeth was arrested by Oakland police officers on Dec. 7 after he allegedly attacked a county probation officer at her home in the Oakland hills. Faeth's arrest did not become public until February, when the probation officer and her husband filed a claim against the city.

Faeth was allegedly intoxicated and with at least one other officer, identified by the couple's claim as Sgt. Joe Turner. Faeth was eventually charged with a misdemeanor count of trespassing and refusing to leave private property. Three other officers were placed on leave but Oakland police have not disclosed the status of internal investigations into their conduct.

A recent graduate of the Oakland police academy, Officer Matthew Santos, was arrested by Emeryville police when he allegedly pulled a gun on a man hired to paint his apartment door on Feb. 8. But his arrest wasn't disclosed either and only became public in April, when the district attorney's office filed charges of false imprisonment and brandishing a firearm against him.

Last month, five Oakland officers were placed on leave in an expansive investigation into alleged sexual misconduct that police acknowledged surfaced last fall after Officer Brendan O'Brien killed himself.

Allegations have surfaced that some of the officers may have had sex with an underage sex worker, but so far no criminal charges have been filed.

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