In the era of Governor Gavin Newsom and Attorney General Rob Bonta, the State of California has been committed to enhancing police accountability. Attempts to rid bad actors from law enforcement ranks were often undermined by officers’ ability to resign amidst misconduct allegations and find new work at another agency. In 2021, Senate Bill 2 was signed into law to combat this job hopping establishing a statewide process to decertify law enforcement officers engaged in misconduct. Any law enforcement officer found engaged in misconduct could be added to a publicly available list and stripped of their badge forever.
In January 2023, SB2 went into effect. A former Fort Bragg cop, Christopher Awad, has the unique designation of California’s first officially decertified officer.
Awad began his career with the Fort Bragg Police Department in May 2012. He was honored as Officer of the Year in 2013 said to be “one of the department”s most dedicated and determined police officers.”
By 2020, Awad found himself at the center of a misconduct investigation that began when he arrested a woman for a DUI in April of 2019, later had a consensual sexual encounter with her, then testified at her trial without notifying his superiors or the District Attorney’s Office that he had done so.
A trove of documents published by the City of Fort Bragg provides a detailed look into Awad’s actions, the investigation that would lead to his termination from the Fort Bragg Police Department, and ultimately voluntarily surrendering his law enforcement credentials becoming California’s first decertified police officer.
On April 14, 2019, Awad conducted a routine traffic stop and after a battery of tests concluded the female driver was intoxicated. He booked her for DUI. He was acquainted with the woman as a result of other law enforcement interactions but did not know her well.
During the booking process, Awad told her there was no reason to drive drunk. He said if she found herself considering drunk driving again, she could contact him and he would provide transportation.
It is unclear who initiated the initial communications, but in the following months, a friendship began via social media between Awad and the woman he booked for drunk driving.
Though he never confirmed it with the district attorney, Awad told investigators that he came to believe that the woman had dealt with the DUI case after pleading guilty during her arraignment for the DUI. He noticed that she had an interlock device installed on her vehicle, a common stipulation for those charged with a DUI. Their social media chatter continued.
Sometime in September or October 2019, Awad learned the woman’s case was not over and she faced deportation due to her DUI charges. He felt this punishment did not fit the crime. Awad spoke to a deputy district attorney, advocating that she should be charged with a lower count of wet and reckless, which would still result in a litany of consequences associated with drunk driving but not put her at risk for deportation. He was told his concerns would be considered.
Awad and the woman became intimate in October 2019 in a San Francisco hotel room. Awad was in the Bay Area for training and learned she was nearby dropping someone off at San Francisco International Airport. She arrived at his hotel room and that night the pair engaged in consensual sexual activity. This he told investigators was the only physical encounter between the two.
In late January 2020, Awad was subpoenaed to take the stand as the arresting officer in the trial of the woman he had arrested back in April 2019. Despite being told a “wet and reckless” charge would be considered, the DA had decided to charge the woman with DUI.
After the trial, Deputy District Attorney Melissa Weem brought Awad to the attention of her boss concerned that Awad’s demeanor during court suggested a tangible relationship between him and the defendant. She reported that his responses to her questions pointed toward the woman’s innocence. Weem reported that multiple members of the jury also sensed a relationship between Awad and the defendant. Weem told investigators Awad seemed to be deliberately trying to tank the case. Despite Awad’s testimony, the woman was found guilty of DUI.
Within days of his performance on the witness stand, an investigation began into his relationship with the defendant. Awad was interviewed multiple times by Fort Bragg Police Department command staff, and an investigator with the Mendocino County District Attorney’s Office. Investigators found ample evidence that he had breached protocol by failing to inform Deputy DA Ween of his relationship with the defendant.
In April 2020, Mendocino County District Attorney David Eyster officially placed Awad on the Brady List, a designation for officers who had proven untrustworthy and unfit to testify in court. Soon thereafter, he was fired from the Fort Bragg Police Department.
On August 6, 2020, Awad’s home was raided by a joint team of Homeland Security Investigations, Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office Detectives, and the District Attorney’s Office. Though never confirmed by official sources, it is widely believed investigators were searching for illegal weapons of some kind.
Now, nearly three years after the DUI arrest that brought down his career, Awad is speaking out. Just yesterday afternoon, an hour-long interview with Awad was published by the YouTube channel Confessions of an Ex-Cop, the product of Trent James, a former member of Mendocino County law enforcement who has taken to the internet to reveal perceived corruption in local law enforcement.
During the interview, Awad pushed back on claims that he tried to tank the DUI case. He claimed the Internal Affairs investigation was unfair and used selective evidence to justify putting him on the Brady list. Awad did not deny he had a relationship with the woman he booked for DUI. He owned that the behavior was inappropriate and acknowledged that he should have informed the Deputy District Attorney before testifying.
However, he argued his advocacy for lesser charges was not the result of their relationship, but his attempt to make sure the punishment fits the crime. Overall, Awad said he believes the consequences he faced were retaliatory and unjustified.
We have reached out to Awad to speak about his experience, but have yet to hear back.
Awad told KTVU that his life is simpler now. He is part-owner of Nighthawk Brands, a company that makes car detailing products. Trent James is also an owner of the company and featured in multiple posts on the company’s social media.
The story of Christopher Awad is just beginning. He told Trent James’s audience that he would reveal more information about his time as a Fort Bragg Police Officer in upcoming interviews. The former Fort Bragg officer, forever stripped of his credentials, exemplifies California’s efforts to curtail police misconduct and seems to be planning to reveal others’ misconduct himself.