Yesterday, news broke that a 17-year veteran of the San Francisco Police Department serving in the Bayview Station was reported by his colleagues for allegedly highly racist remarks. The content of those remarks, the Examiner reported, was a threat that the officer had transferred to the station to kill black people. The Examiner claims to have gleaned that statement from an unnamed SFPD source.
However, today, the SFPD contests the Examiner's report, issuing the statement that "the phrase reported by the [Examiner] was never alleged by the Department to have been said by that member, nor did witnesses to the incident allege the member made that statement." Instead, the remark appears to be, according to the Chronicle, that the officer had transferred to the station to "chase negro boys around," and that another remark was a sexually suggestive comment to a female colleague.
But before the department could challenge the initial account of the statement which appears to have been exaggerated via a game of Telephone some jumped to its defense. The officer, whom the SFPD does not dispute was reported for his offensive remarks, did "nothing wrong," according to Gary Delagnes, a former police union president and current political consultant for the Police Officers Association.
“A couple of months ago one of our officers made a comment in the lunchroom at Bayview Station that he should not have made." Here, we might assume that Delagnes is referring to the threatening comment, but regardless, the Department does not deny that the statement was racist. "It wasn’t smart but it certainly wasn’t anything egregious enough to warrant any kind of discipline... Two other officers who heard the statement immediately raced to their superiors and snitched him off as our officers are now taught to do.”
Delagnes also took issue with the fact that "the department felt as though they needed to boast about the incident by issuing a press release to the media applauding the officers for turning in their co-worker." Per the release to which he refers, sent out by the Department, "The investigation was completed in early April and, based upon the investigative findings, Chief Suhr suspended the member and forwarded the matter to the Police Commission with a recommendation for discipline up to and including termination."
While the horrifying contents of a second round of racist text messages sent between SFPD officers might serve as more direct proof of racism than the statement made by the officer in the Bayview, community leaders also seized on the alleged remark. Calling the now-questioned threat to kill black people a "tipping point," civil rights lawyer John Burris cited it as "evidence of deep seated and systemic racial bias within the ranks of SFPD."
Burris is calling on California State Attorney General Kamala Harris to step in with an investigation of the department, naming others at his side such as the Justice for Mario Woods Coalition. Per a press release, "Burris and the community demand independent investigations into SFPD’s documented racist, bigoted and toxic environment and the unwarranted shootings of Alex Nieto; Mario Woods; Amilcar Lopez; and Luis Gongora."