Moral Low Ground


SFPD Officers Under Investigation for Racist, Anti-Gay Text Messages

Blacks, who are 6 percent of San Francisco's population, make up 56 percent of all arrests. (Roger Jones)

Blacks, who are 6 percent of San Francisco’s population, make up 56 percent of all arrests. (Roger Jones)

An investigation has been launched into racist and anti-gay text messages sent by four San Francisco police officers, and the city’s district attorney has announced a review of every prosecution within the past 10 years involving the officers.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports the four officers involved in the scandal that has rocked a city known for its tolerance have all been on the force for at least a decade. They have been identified as Michael Celis, 47, Rain Daugherty, 40, Michael Robison, 46, and Noel Schwab, also 46.

San Francisco public radio station KQED first reported on the disturbing text messages, which were revealed last Friday in a federal court motion involving former San Francisco police Sgt. Ian Furminger, who is facing 41 months in prison following a December conviction for wire fraud and conspiracy.

The text messages contain racist language against blacks, Latinos, Filipinos and gays, with some of them directed against specific SFPD officers. They were sent to and from Furminger, and while the court document reveals the contents of the texts, it does not identify which officer sent which texts. Here is a sampling, with all spelling and grammar errors left uncorrected:

“I hate to tell you this but my wife friend is over with their kids and and her husband is black! [He] is an attorney but should I be worried?”
“Get ur pocket gun. Keep it available in case the monkey returns to his roots. Its not against the law to put an animal down.”
“Well said!”
“U may have to kill the half breed kids too. Don’t worry. Their an abomination of nature anyway.”

“Niggers should be spayed.”
“I saw one an hour ago with 4 kids.”
“See, that would be four less.”

“We got two blacks at my boys school and they are brother and sister! There cause dad works for the school district and I am watching them like hawks.”
“Do you celebrate qaunza at your school?”
“Yeah we burn the cross on the field. Then we celebrate Whitemas! It’s worth every penny to live here away from the savages.”

“The buffalo soldier was why the Indians wouldn’t shoot the niggers that fought for the confederate They thought they were sacred buffalo and not human.”
“They were not far off Marley was a nigger.”

“I can’t imagine working At costco and hanging out with filthy flips. hate to sound racist but that group is disgusting.”

“White power… I still hate black people.”

“I am just leaving it like it is, painting KKK on the sides and calling it a day.”
“Cross burning lowers blood pressure! I did the test myself!”
“So do I. Every camping trip I burn an image of the prez.”

“There shouldn’t be any blacks.”
“All niggers must fucking hang.”

“20,000 bees are in a Vacaville school but they are not as dangerous as black people.”

“You are a total homo. And your gay.”
“Busted up but thats what happens to fags.”

“Fucking nigger.”
“LOL And Yolanda Williams”
“Nigger bitch.”

“It was rather shocking to know that there were people working around me that had this type of ideology,” SFPD Sgt. Yulanda Williams, who is mentioned in one of the racist texts, told KQED. Williams, who is president of Officers for Justice, an SFPD officers’ association dedicated to advocating for minority civil rights, said she was shocked “to know that there were people working around me that had this type of ideology.”

“When I read it, it was very apparent to me that the messages were that of Ku Klux Klan, white supremacy ideology,” added Williams. “And I found them to be despicable, sickening, unacceptable, heart-wrenching conduct by members of a noble profession of policing.”

San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr, who told NBC Bay Area, “it makes me sick to my stomach to even have these guys around,” told KQED the department will review its hiring and training procedures in an attempt to root out bigoted individuals.

“We will look at the hiring/background processes to identify how anyone capable of statements of such extreme bias could be hired as police officers in the first place,” Suhr texted KQED. “We have training scheduled on implicit bias and we will be doing more.”

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón issued a statement in which he said he was “deeply disturbed” by the revelations, and that he would review all prosecutions involving the four officers over the past decade.

“There is no place for bigotry in San Francisco,” Gascón’s statement said. “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.”

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee weighed in on the scandal in a statement issued on Monday.

“It is both shocking and disturbing to hear that four San Francisco police officers are under investigation for such heinous and despicable statements,” Lee’s statement said. “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.”

Lee added that expected the officers involved to be terminated “if these statements are attributable to any San Francisco police officer.”

San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi went a step further, calling for a Ferguson, Missouri-style US Justice Department probe of what he called the SFPD’s “deeply-rooted racism.”

“These texts display deep-rooted racism within members of the San Francisco Police Department,” Adachi said in an interview Monday. “Some of these texts are even more outrageous and hurtful than some of the emails from the Ferguson Police Department report.”

Adachi pointed to the glaring statistic that blacks make up 56 percent of city jail inmates, despite comprising just six percent of San Francisco’s population, as a red flag.

“What is the training that officers receive, and why do we have such a disproportionate rate of arresting and jailing African-Americans in San Francisco?” Adachi asked.

Tony Brass, an attorney for officers Celis and Robison, told the Chronicle the texts were intended to be private.

“No one is suggesting that bigotry and racism in texts are acceptable,” Brass said. “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 Chronicle also reports that three of the four officers involved in the scandal have been in trouble in the past.

Schwab, a 16-year veteran, was caught on video in 2009 threatening to break Zach Stow’s arm “like a twig” if he resisted an arrest for illegal skateboarding.

Robison, a 23-year veteran, faced internal misconduct charges 20 years ago after he was accused of placing a loaded gun under the chin of a suspect and calling him a racist name. The charge was dismissed.

Celis, a 16-year veteran, was charged with four counts of misconduct in 2004 after he allegedly tried to use his badge and a $100 bribe to gain entrance to his estranged wife’s Burlingame hotel room. He was also suspended for disobeying a department order to remain unarmed by buying a gun the day after surrendering his service weapon in connection with the hotel incident.

The four officers implicated in the texting scandal have all been transferred to duties in which they will have no contact with the public.

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