Originally published on April 6, 2015, at NationofChange.org
San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr suspended eight officers for sending racist text messages and has recommended their immediate termination from the department. According to the police chief, at least 14 officers and department employees have been caught exchanging racist and homophobic texts regarding coworkers and citizens. The violent tone of the text messages has prompted San Francisco County prosecutors to re-examine over 1,000 criminal convictions involving these suspended officers.
On Friday, SFPD Chief Suhr announced that he has requested a police oversight committee to approve firing the suspended officers. Their text messages included racial slurs and bigoted remarks against blacks, Mexicans, Filipinos, and gay men. They also included references to cross burning and lynching.
Last month, San Francisco police officer Michael Robison resigned during the investigation. Officer Noel Schwab has announced that he will resign from the department on Tuesday. And Officer Michael Celis announced his plans to resign last Friday.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Chief Suhr suspended officers Robison, Schwab, Celis, Sean Doherty, Rain Daugherty, Sgt. Michael Wibunsin, Capt. Jason Fox, and an eighth officer for exchanging the racist and homophobic texts. Six other officers and department employees face disciplinary actions, including reassignment and temporary suspension without pay, for exchanging text messages that violated department policy. Violations of department policy include leaving an assigned area or using improper language.
“There were eight standing officers who engaged in such repulsive conversations via text messages,” stated Chief Suhr. “I have suspended them, and they have been referred to the police commission with a recommendation of only termination – as it should be. Their conduct is incompatible with that of a police officer.”
Sent between 2011 and 2012, the texts were revealed in a court filing during the trial of former SFPD Sgt. Ian Furminger and Officer Edmond Robles. After former Officer Reynaldo Vargas pleaded guilty to four felonies on October 21, 2014, Vargas testified against Furminger and Robles for robbing suspects and filing false police reports to conceal their illegal activities. Convicted of conspiracy to violate civil rights, conspiracy to steal from a federally funded program, and devising a scheme to defraud and obtain money and property through wire fraud, Furminger was sentenced to 41 months in prison.
During the investigation into Furminger, law enforcement authorities stumbled upon the racist and bigoted texts sent between the corrupt officer and his coworkers. Prosecutors had to dismiss over 100 criminal cases after watching surveillance videos of Furminger and his cohorts stealing money from suspects and falsely arresting them. Due to the degree of prejudice within the text messages, San Francisco County prosecutors have decided to reexamine roughly 1,000 criminal convictions involving the eight suspended and resigning officers.
“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,” declared San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon.