San Francisco Dist. Atty. George Gascon said Thursday that his office had discovered more racist and homophobic texts by city police officers.
Five officers exchanged dozens of the newly discovered offensive texts in 2014 and 2015, Gascon said in an interview.
The five were in addition to the 14 officers identified in a texting scandal a year ago. Some of the newly discovered texts were sent after news of that scandal had broken, Gascon said.
The elected prosecutor said he has asked Police Chief Greg Suhr to remove the five officers from contact with the public.
The SFPD released a statement saying that its internal affairs bureau had uncovered the offensive texts and took immediate action against the officers involved, two of whom have since left the department.
“The department acted immediately in suspending officers involved in these text messages and referring the matter to the Police Commission for discipline up to and including termination,” the statement said.
The department said the texts were discovered during a department investigation into allegations that an officer had committed a sexual assault while off-duty. The officer, Jason Lai, has been charged with misdemeanor counts of unlawful access and use of criminal and motor vehicle databases.
Martin Halloran, president of the San Francisco Police Officers Assn., issued a statement condemning “the appalling racist behavior committed by a handful of officers.”
“They have disgraced the uniform and their profession,” Halloran said. “This conduct will not be tolerated in the SFPD nor in the POA. Chief Suhr has the full support of the POA to take appropriate disciplinary action that protects the due process rights of the officers.”
Gascon said the newly discovered texts show the scandal last year was not as isolated as some believed.
“It is horrifying from a purely operational point: Here we go again, having to spend a lot of time trying to figure out how many cases were impacted,” Gascon said. “On a moral level, it is also horrifying because it shows that racial and homophobic bias is impacting the quality of the administration of justice.”
He said the texts “used the N-word profusely and were also derogatory toward members of the LGBT community.”
The previous scandal led to the dismissal of 13 pending criminal cases. Suhr tried to fire several of the 14 officers, but a judge ruled that the department had waited too long to discipline them. That ruling is now on appeal.