San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr says he and SFPD have been “disgraced” by four police officers who allegedly sent a string of racially-biased text messages.
Among some of the text messages that were discovered were, “We got two blacks at my boys [sic] school and they are brother and sister! There cause dad works for the school district and I am watching them like hawks,” according to local CBS News affiliate KPIX-5 in San Francisco. A second text read “I am leaving it like it is, painting KKK on the sides and calling it a day!” and “Cross burning lowers blood pressure! I did the test myself!”
The texts were initially discovered after the phone of SFPD Sgt. Ian Furminger was seized when he was recently convicted in federal court and sentenced to 40 months in prison on corruption charges in an entirely separate case, notes the San Francisco Chronicle. His phone had the racist texts on it from the four other officers, which which led to the investigation.
Chief Suhr said Furminger should never have been an officer in the first place. On Saturday he revealed that he could not confirm the officers’ identities under state law, although multiple sources have reportedly identified the men as Michael Robison, Noel Schwab, Rain Daugherty and Michael Celis, the Chronicle notes.
Tony Brass, an attorney who represents Robison and Chelis, called the text messages “unfortunate, to say the least” and in an e-mail to the Chronicle said “No one is suggesting that bigotry and racism in texts are acceptable. However, these were texts from one private phone to another, intended for an audience of one person. Not many of us would want all of our texts published and to have our entire career judged by our worst comments.”
The allegations come at a time when race relations have largely been seen as suffering a tremendous setback as displayed through various “Black Lives Matter” protests. And questions are mounting as to whether the officers’ texts reveal racial bias when handling cases involving black people.
The officers in question were reportedly transferred to non-public-contact positions last month and one of the officers, Daughtery, is already on personal leave.
Suhr said he hopes the investigation will be closed within 30 days and has made it the department’s No. 1 priority.
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