Shawn Wallace resigned his 120,000 a year job as a Walnut Creek police officer and now faces the possibility of criminal prosecution and prison for developing a friendship and having a physical relationship with a teen whose assault he investigated as a detective.
Wallace's attorney, Michael Rains, acknowledged Thursday that his client, who resigned from the Walnut Creek force on Feb. 3, had a short-lived physical relationship with the girl, according to the Contra Costa Times.
Wallace, a 45-year-old divorced father, became acquainted with the girl, now 18, when he investigated a case in which she was an assault victim, Rains told the Times.
Wallace, arrested the same day he resigned his job, helped ensure that the girl's assailants were prosecuted, Rains said. The two developed a friendship, he helped her find a job, and he also allowed her to live in his home because she had no place else to live. She was at his home when 8-year-old daughter was present.
After the sexual relationship ended, the two remained friends, and he continued to allow her to live in his home, Rains said.
Contra Costa County Superior Court records show that Wallace filed to end his nine-year marriage in August 2000, and the divorce becamse final in December 2010, with Wallace receiving full physical custody of the couple''s daughter.
Police Chief Joel Bryden said the police department has no specific policy on "personnel from having relationships with people they meet on the job."
Rains said Wallace's friendship with the girl benefitted her.
"She and her family feel that without his intervention in her life she would be a mess today, if not dead," Rains told the TImes. "He has been a very good influence on her life."
Authorities have a different view. After Walnut Creek police arrested Wallace, he was booked into county jail on counts alleging unlawful sex with someone between the ages of 16 and 18 without force, oral copulation and attempting to dissuade a witness, said Gene Greenwald, chief of inspectors for the Contra Costa district attorney's office.
No formal charges have been filed against Wallace, who is out on bail. Greenwald said his office is continuing to investigate the case jointly with Walnut Creek police to determine if charges should be filed.
Walnut Creek Police Chief Joel Bryden said Wallace had worked for the department for six and a half years. He was working in patrol at the time he resigned and earning some about $120,00 a year, according to court records. Before his separation he had been living with his wife, also a city of Walnut Creek employee, in Antioch.
Walnut Creek police officers privately expressed regret about Wallace's arrest without commenting on the case.
Bryden acknowledged that the news about Wallace and could make people wonder if they should trust police officers. Bryden said they should.
"We in law enforcement do our best to hold anyone accountable and that includes member of law enforcement," he said. "Ninety-nine and nine-tenths of the time, law enforcement officers do a tremendous job and stay out of trouble, like most of the public, and they do a very dangerous job under trying circumstances."
Among notable cases Wallace worked on was helping to find a Walnut Creek girl, now a woman in her early 20s, who had been missing for 14 years after allegedly being abducted by her mother during a bitter custody dispute. Walnut Creek resident Dean Click credited Wallace with helping to find his daughter, Jessica Click Hill, in March 2010. Wallace was the first to interview her after she was found.
However, the investigation and nature of the allegations against Wallace are reminiscent of another case that Walnut Creek police investigated, that of Mark Christopher Litton, a Miramonte High English teacher arrested in 2009 on suspicion of having unlawful sexual relations with a former underage student.
Litton was living in Walnut Creek at the time of his arrest, and the sexual encounters took place in his Trinity Avenue apartment, according to court records. In May 2010, Litton, once described by students as "creative and inspired," pleaded no contest to charges that he had sex with an underage girl, the blog Crazy in Suburbia reported.
Litton pleaded no contest to two charges of statutory rape, two counts of sexual penetration of a person under the age of 18, and one count of oral copulation of a person under the age of 18. For his no-contest plea, Litton was sentenced to two years in state prison but his deal allowed him to avoid having to register as a sex offender.