Public Defender Jeff Adachi has sent out a release Tuesday calling on California Attorney General Kamala Harris to investigate the racist texting scandal in SFPD essentially saying that the department, in this case, should not be allowed to police itself.
As KRON 4 and the Examiner report, both Adachi and the ACLU are suggesting that either the state or the federal government get involved, because there is a systemic problem of bigotry at work, and perhaps these officers do not belong on active duty any longer. And so far, the SFPD and its chief Greg Suhr have not been as forthcoming as they should have been in revealing evidence of this bigotry to the district attorney.
In his statement, Adachi writes, "These incidents reveal a pattern a practice within the Police Department that has allowed racism and disparate treatment of black and Latino people to fester and grow." And in a separate letter to the US Department of Justice, the ACLU's Alan Schlosser writes, "The texts show that these views are still alive in the department... [and] The SFPD is in denial about its problems, and therefore unable to truly collaborate. The choice to keep the information secret speaks volumes about the SFPD commitment to the reform process and the low priority it places on public trust."
KQED talks to a retired Superior Court judge, LaDoris Cordell, who points out that all the officers involved could be subject to having any of the evidence they've collected in any case to be questioned in court. "Every time an officer is deemed to engage in behavior that involves moral turpitude an officer is a thief, an officer’s a liar, or if an officer engages in racist or sexist behavior that officer has to be put on a list," Cordell says. And referring to the 1963 Supreme Court decision in Brady v. Maryland which stipulates that prosecutors are required to notify defendants when evidence was collected by an arresting officer who could have acted out of bias Judge Cordell adds, "Basically, Brady officers really become useless."
This all follows on the revelation that a handful of officers exchanged a series of texts in 2015 with hateful slurs regarding people of color and the LGBT community, all in reference to the earlier scandal involving the same type of texts in 2012 in which 14 officers were implicated. The earlier case had to be abandoned because of the statute of limitations, but in the new case, District Attorney George Gascon says that his office has "only scratched the surface" in sorting through tens of thousands of pages of evidence, and the texts are clearly "intended to be racist in nature or homophobic."
The new batch of texts were revealed during the investigation of rape accusations against one officer.
As Schlosser tells KQED, "He [Suhr] certainly was free back in August to say that they have uncovered more examples of this kind of conduct, and hopefully use that to reiterate his strong stand and say what they’re going to do about it. But in fact it’s been kept secret from the public, and was only revealed last week by the district attorney. That to us was a very telling sign that the leadership of the Police Department is not committed to transparency and to significant reform."
Meanwhile, adding fuel to the fire as they always do, the San Francisco Police Officers Association just released the results of a survey of 1,000 SFPD officers in which a vast majority, 87 percent, said that they are unhappy with new "de-escalation techniques" and reforms around the use of force in the line of duty.
More on this as it develops.