It was late Friday when the news broke: four current San Francisco Police Department officers are "under investigation" after court filings alleged that they'd participated in racist and homophobic text conversations with a corrupt former colleague. By Sunday, the names of the officers had been revealed, as well as their past records of alleged misconduct. Now that we're back in the work week, city officials are finally commenting, and lawyers for the officers in question are spinning as fast as they can.
You can catch up on the story here:
Two SF Cops Convicted In Corruption Trial Involving Stolen Drugs And Cash
Four SFPD Officers Under Investigation For Racist And Homophobic Texts
SFPD Officers Behind Racist And Homophobic Texts Identified
And here's the complete court filing that included the texts in question: GOVERNMENT’S OPPOSITION TO DEFENDANT FURMINGER’S MOTION FOR BAIL PENDING APPEAL
Got it? Of course you do. So, what's happening now? Here's a rundown:
Everyone Gets Around To Releasing Statements
Starting with Mayor Lee's remarks, emailed to media Monday afternoon, multiple public officials sent statements chiding the officers for their texting habits. Here's what they said:
2:58 p.m., Mayor Lee: It is both shocking and disturbing to hear that four San Francisco police officers are under investigation for such heinous and despicable statements. The content of these text messages displays a bias that is incompatible with the values of our City and incompatible with the ability to perform sworn duties as a police officer.
If these statements are attributable to any San Francisco Police officer, I join Police Chief Greg Suhr in seeking nothing less than termination.
San Francisco is a City that embraces and celebrates diversity. This kind of disrespectful, hateful behavior will not be tolerated. The San Francisco Police Department is one of the best in the nation, and we will continue to work to ensure that the police force represents the diversity of our City.
3:28 p.m., District Attorney George Gascon: I am deeply disturbed by these text messages. There is no place for bigotry in San Francisco. 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. I have also asked the SFPD for any records they may have that will ensure the assessment is conducted thoroughly. This is a shameful incident that the public deserves to have addressed in a meaningful and expeditious manner.
4:45 p.m., Supervisors Malia Cohen and London Breed: We are disappointed and appalled at the content of the recently revealed racist and homophobic text messages exchanged by four San Francisco police officers. This type of behavior from the men and women who have sworn to protect and serve is unacceptable; racial and/or sexual prejudice will not be tolerated in any department in the City and County of San Francisco.
We are encouraged that Police Chief Greg Suhr will seek to discipline--to the fullest extent--those who were involved in this incident, and we believe the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) is taking the appropriate step in examining its existing hiring and training policies. We must hold SFPD accountable for the training it provides its officers, which should include specific training on diversity, culturally competent community relations, and transparency.
This incident also highlights the greater level of diversity needed within our police force. We call on SFPD to expand its recruitment efforts to ensure our police force is reflective of the communities it serves.
We look forward to the results of the investigation and hope the individuals involved will be held fully responsible for their actions. Anything less would be unbecoming of the world-class police department we have all sought to build in San Francisco.
Though the SFPD hasn't released the names of the texters still employed by the SFPD, the Chron named them on Sunday and their lawyers confirmed it by Tuesday. As you can imagine, their lawyers have a lot to say!
Anthony Brass, attorney for Michael Celis and Michael Robison:
"This is like white supremacist propaganda." [SF Examiner]
"This is not a real who done it type of case and so they're not optimistic about their future in the department." [ABC7]
"These comments were private comments from one private phone to another, intended for an audience of one person. And so the notion of this case is that we no longer have privacy." But, also "The comments themselves are a tragedy and they cannot be reconciled with the citizens of San Francisco embracing these police officers anymore," [KTVU]
Alison Berry Wilkinson, lawyer for Rain Daugherty: “He is appropriately ashamed of his impulsive and insensitive banter and accepts full responsibility.” [Bay City News]
Julia Fox, attorney for Noel Schwab: “Officer Schwab never intended to malign anyone, either generally or specifically...While the messages were in incredibly bad taste and wholly unacceptable, they were not indicative of animus against any group or class. They were intended for a specific recipient." [Bay City News]
Ian "all my friends are ethnic and gay" Furminger Speaks
Furminger, the cop at the center of the court filings, spoke with the SF Examiner about the whole mess. Here's what he had to say:
Furminger told The Examiner the messages were taken out of context and he meant no harm.
"They were personal messages that were dry humor and if I offended anybody, I'm sorry," he said, adding they were jokes between friends and nothing more. "They were not really open for public consumption. They were just personal banter and being funny, even if it sounds bad. All my friends are ethnic and gay. That's no joke — all of them."
Furminger added that he has "never in 20 years once had a racial or sexist complaint ever on duty."
The Chron reports that:
Furminger’s lawyer, Mark Goldrosen,said in court papers filed Sunday that the government’s assertions that Furminger is racist and homophobic are untrue and irrelevant.
“His close friends include many persons of different races and different sexual orientations,” Goldrosen said. “The government’s claim is based on isolated text messages allegedly written by Mr. Furminger. Its pleading does not include the full context in which many of the text messages were written.
“Were the text messages intended to be humorous, albeit offensive and insensitive, banter with friends and co-workers in a private setting, or are they true reflections of Mr. Furminger’s beliefs?”
SFPD Chief Greg Suhr Reiterates That He Wants These Guys Fired
"If these officers are found to have made these statements that will support my action that I will do everything I can to remove them from the police department, as we do not want them amongst us." [ABC7]
Police Department spokesman Albie Esparza confirmed that four officers were reassigned last month to jobs in which they have no contact with the public during a department probe of the messages, which were sent to and from disgraced former Sgt. Ian Furminger’s personal cellphone in 2011 and 2012.
Esparza said Suhr expects the investigation to be completed within 30 days and that any results showing that an officer was biased “will be forwarded to the Police Commission with a recommendation from the chief for termination.”
“There is no place in the department for bias,” Esparza said.