S.F. police officer being investigated in text message probe resigns

S.F. police officer being investigated in text message probe resigns
San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr holds a press conference in September 2013. (Mike Kepka / The San Francisco Chronicle)

One of the officers at the center of a widening scandal involving racist and homophobic text messages sent by a group of San Francisco police officers has resigned, the agency and his attorney said Thursday.

Michael Robison, a 23-year veteran, resigned Wednesday, according to his attorney, Tony Brass. Robison stepped down amid intense scrutiny that has forced the review of an estimated 1,000 criminal convictions in the county for potential bias.


"This was a difficult decision for him, but Chief [Greg] Suhr's comments have led him to believe that a real future in the SFPD would not be possible after a scandal such as this," Brass said of his client.

Brass called the text messages "poorly chosen banter, embarrassing and regrettable."

"He's a gay police officer that joined the most diverse police department in the country," Brass told The Times on Thursday. "He knows what it's like to be on the wrong end of bigotry, he would never hand that back to anybody.… As a human being, these messages do not represent his worldview."

The messages were revealed in a motion by the U.S. attorney's office opposing bail for Ian Furminger, a former San Francisco police officer who was recently sentenced on corruption-related charges.

Furminger and four other officers reportedly exchanged the text messages, which denigrated minorities and gays, between 2011 and 2012. Some of the messages referred to minorities as "savages," used the N-word to refer to African Americans and suggested they be spayed like animals, and used an epithet to describe homosexuals. Others disparaged Mexicans and Filipinos.

San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr and Mayor Edwin Lee have both called for the officers to be fired. Robison and the other three officers were reassigned to duties away from working with the community, according to an SFPD spokesman.

Police have not released the names of the other three officers under investigation.

In a statement Tuesday, the San Francisco Police Officers Assn. said the messages, "if true, are disgraceful and humiliating to the community we serve."

Public defender Jeff Adachi said firing the officers doesn't go far enough, and this week called on the department to give all officers 24 hours of bias training, and to assign more minority officers to work in their own communities.

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Times staff writers Joseph Serna and Lee Romney contributed to this report.