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A three-judge panel ruled that it was “harsh” to fire Richmond police Lt. Andre Hill for his actions in a sexual exploitation scandal involving officers from multiple Bay Area departments and a troubled 18-year-old woman, but it was “within the range of reasonable discipline.”

Richmond’s police chief at the time, its hearing officer and an administrative law judge all recommended demoting Hill, noting his record included no other misconduct in 22 years, according to a ruling Wednesday written by Justice Kathleen M. Banke of the California Court of Appeal, First Appellate District.

Bill Lindsay, then Richmond’s city manager, fired Hill. He cited the woman’s personal history and what he called Hill’s “predatory behavior” and his responsibility as supervisor of the police department’s Youth Services Division.

The unpublished appellate court ruling details the investigating officer’s findings and includes graphic and sexually explicit text messages that Hill exchanged with the young woman in late 2015 and early 2016 using his personal cell phone. In one exchange, the woman tells Hill she was traumatized by repeated previous kidnappings.

According to the ruling, the pair initially communicated through Facebook, then exchanged 324 text messages over four months, most while Hill was off duty, and had oral sex one time while he was off duty. The investigating officer found that Hill did not know the woman was a prostitute and did not exchange money or favors with her for sex.

Officers and commanders in at least five other agencies — Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office, Livermore Police Department, Oakland Police Department, the San Francisco Police Department and the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office — also had relationships with the woman or were directly connected with the case, which had widespread fallout.

Richmond Mayor Tom Butt said in an email in which he distributed the ruling that it shows the city does not let police misconduct “go undisciplined.” Among 11 Richmond officers investigated in connection with the case, several others were demoted or terminated.

Officials issue not-so-subtle reminder: ‘Seriously. No Fireworks. Zip. Zero.’

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