From: SF Gate
By: Erin Stone 07/09/2018
A former San Leandro police officer who had a sexual relationship with a minor he was tasked with mentoring had three statutory rape charges against him dismissed by the Alameda County district attorney’s office.
Marco Becerra, 27, was a SWAT team member and instructor in the San Leandro Police Department’s Explorers program, which is designed for young people interested in law enforcement careers, when he developed a sexual relationship in late 2017 with a 17-year-old girl participating in the program, authorities said.
The case was dismissed in mid-June because the young woman declined to press charges, said Teresa Drenick, a spokeswoman for the Alameda County district attorney’s office.
Becerra resigned in October after he confessed to having sexual intercourse with the then-underage woman on three separate occasions while he was off duty, said Michael Rains, Becerra’s attorney. In November, Alameda County prosecutors charged Becerra with three felony counts of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor, or statutory rape.
“This relationship in every sense was consensual,” Rains told The Chronicle last year. “There were strong emotional feelings by both parties, and despite that she was just shy of 18, the law says it was illegal.”
In California, sexual crimes are distinct from other criminal actions because alleged victims of sexual assault or misconduct have the right to decline to press charges or proceed with prosecution at any time. In this incident, the alleged victim, who is now an adult, declined to go forward with the charges, Drenick said.
The alleged victim told investigators she met Becerra in the Explorers program and corresponded with him on the phone and through social media, according to court records.
The Police Department suspended the Explorer program in light of the incidents, but after an “extensive” internal review the program was back up and running by February, said Police Chief Jeff Tudor.
“The behavior of our former officer was not tolerated and will not be tolerated,” he said. “I’m very proud of my staff and how quickly we handled it with integrity and professionalism.”
The department made changes to Explorers program policies based on the internal review, such as creating a “more defined” role of direct supervision between instructors and students, allowing Explorers to go on ride-alongs only with officers of the same gender, and adding rules on when and how instructors can contact Explorers, Tudor said.
The police chief also met with parents of Explorers and discussed “different ways to facilitate better communication with the parents.”
“This was a mutual relationship and after doing our audit, we felt it was nothing systemic within the program and we had a lot of support from our other Explorers’ families who were concerned we’d disband the program,” Tudor said. “After doing this audit, I was confident that we looked at all angles of this and that we could restart the program.”
Neither the district attorney’s office nor the police department publicized the case out of concern for the alleged victim’s privacy, they said. The Chronicle learned of the case only through a tip from a confidential source.
Becerra and his attorney did not respond to a request for comment Monday.