S.F. police chief: Officers should be fired for 'hateful' text messages

SFPD police chief recommends seven officers be fired for 'hateful' text messages

San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr called Friday for seven more officers who allegedly exchanged racist and homophobic text messages to be fired.

“The officers responsible for the reprehensible texts should be separated from the SFPD as soon as practical," Suhr said in a statement. "The fine, right-minded men and women of the SFPD that are of the impeccable character required of a… police officer expect no less.”

Suhr’s recommendation followed a revelation that at least 14 officers and department employees had been messaging each other with racist and homophobic comments and jokes about citizens and coworkers.

The texts were exposed in a court filing during the trial of former SFPD Officer Ian Furminger, who was convicted and sentenced to 41 months in prison for corruption pending an appeal.

The seven officers have been suspended, and an eighth has already resigned. The group exchanged messages “of such extreme bias” that they can no longer serve, Suhr concluded. Their cases have been forwarded to the police commission with the recommendation they be fired.

Two other officers exchanged single text messages that violated department policy, but Suhr said he would let the commission hear their explanation before recommending any discipline. They have been moved to desk jobs.

Four other officers involved in the scandal in tangential ways violated department policy but shouldn’t be fired, Suhr said. They could be suspended for up to 10 days without pay, officials said.

The messages showed a degree of bias among some officers that forced San Francisco County prosecutors to reexamine some 1,000 criminal convictions the officers were involved in, officials said.

“In order to ensure our criminal justice system is fair and equitable, my office is conducting an immediate assessment of every prosecution within the past ten years where these officers were involved,” San Francisco Dist. Atty. George Gascon said in a statement after the messages came to light.

Public defender Jeff Adachi on Tuesday estimated that could amount to at least 1,000 cases among the five officers. Officials identified more than 120 in just the last two years, he said.

“We look forward to reviewing all the cases and reports made by the officers involved in sending or responding to the racist texts. We expect that this will significantly widen our investigation beyond the 1,000 estimated cases that must be reviewed,” Adachi said in a statement Friday.

“The characterization of these hateful statements as innocent banter is dead wrong. This casual dehumanization leads to real life suffering and injustice. It foments a toxic environment in which citizens fear and distrust the police, brutality reigns, and good officers are less effective.”

In the text messages, the officers referred to minorities as “savages,” used a racial slur to refer to African Americans and suggested they be spayed like animals, and used an epithet for gays. Other text messages insulted Filipinos and Mexicans.

Adachi called for officers to receive 24 hours of training so they could be more aware of biases they might hold and for the department to assign more minority officers to work in their own communities, among other recommendations.

A second officer was expected to resign Friday, KCBS San Francisco reported.

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Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATED

2:45 p.m.: This post has been updated with additional comments from Public Defender Jeff Adachi.

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