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CHP Responds To Claim By Dublin Officer That Nude Photos Often Taken From Suspects' Phones

MARTINEZ (CBS SF) -- A California Highway Patrol chief spoke out Saturday about the investigation into a Dublin area CHP officer who is accused of sending nude photos of a DUI suspect from her cellphone to his own phone while the woman was in custody.

Chief Avery A. Browne of the CHP's Golden Gate Division said in a news release late Saturday that the alleged misconduct of 35-year-old Officer Sean Harrington occurred within the Dublin CHP Area office and is not a widespread practice among CHP officers.

He said there is no evidence to support recent reports that Harrington's alleged theft of explicit photos from a female suspect is a widespread practice throughout the CHP.

"I'm very disappointed and disgusted with the allegations of misconduct, and I want to thank the young lady for having the courage to bring this to our attention," Browne said during a news conference Saturday.

"As an organization, 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," he said.

Court records show an investigator from the Contra Costa County District Attorney's Office is recommending Harrington be charged with felony computer theft. No charges have been filed in the case.

Harrington's alleged misconduct came to light after the purported victim, a 23-year-old San Ramon woman, realized that about half a dozen nude or semi-nude photos of herself had been forwarded from her cellphone to an unknown number that she traced to the officer who had arrested her on Aug. 29.

Investigators served a search warrant at Harrington's Martinez home on Oct. 16 and seized his cellphone and laptop that contained the explicit photos as well as text messages and instant messages from the woman's cellphone, according to the search warrant.

Harrington and his CHP partner had stopped the woman, whose name is not being released and is referred to in court documents as Jane Doe, for an unsafe lane change on Interstate Highway 680 in San Ramon just before midnight on Aug. 29.

According to court records, Doe failed field sobriety tests, and her blood alcohol level was measured at .29, more than three times the legal limit to drive.

Officers took the woman to county jail in Martinez, and she was later issued a notice to appear in court and released.

She later noticed six photos of her had been secretly sent from her cellphone to an unknown number from the 707 area code while she was in police custody.

On Oct. 7, Doe and her attorney Rick Madsen provided a statement to the district attorney's office, and a judge issued a search warrant for Harrington's home.

"When I read the accounts and responses that were mentioned in the search warrant documents, the callousness and depravity with which these officers communicated about women is dehumanizing, horribly offensive and degrading to all women," Browne said. "As we progress through the investigation, I want to reiterate our commitment to public safety, service and security to the people of California."

© Copyright 2014 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed

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