The San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) will investigate dozens of racist and homophobic text exchanges between a former SFPD sergeant convicted of corruption charges and four other police officers, the San Francisco Chronicle first reported. The texts made public Friday included jokes about Kwanzaa, calling African Americans monkeys, calling for the lynching of all African Americans, and even one that said, “Its [sic] not against the law to put an animal down.” The four officers have been on the force for at least a decade, with two having faced disciplinary action in the past. The revelation comes at a time when police practices around the country are under scrutiny for racial bias.
The text messages came to light after the Attorney General’s office filed a motion to release the texts to keep former SFPD Sgt. Ian Furminger in custody as a way “to show the officer’s character” and deny him bail, ABC News reported. Furminger, a 20-year veteran, is currently seeking to appeal his conviction and a three-year prison sentence for charges stemming from “a scheme to steal money and property seized during searches and arrests in 2009,” a local CBS news affiliate reported.
Here is a selection of the text messages exchanged between October 2011 and June 2012, while Furminger was still on the police force:
In response to a text asking “Do you celebrate quanza [sic] at your school?” Furminger wrote: “Yeah we burn the cross on the field! Then we celebrate Whitemas.”
“The buffalo soldier was why the Indians Wouldnt [sic] shoot the n****** that found for the confederate They [sic] thought they were sacred buffalo and not human.”
In response to a text saying “N****** should be spayed,” Furminger wrote “I saw one an hour ago with 4 kids.”
In response to a text saying “All n****** must fucking hang,” Furminger wrote “Ask my 6 year old what he thinks about Obama.”
I was trying to be nice to you as everyone knows your [sic] gay. I love calling you a fag. Good enough?
You are a total homo! And your [sic] gay!
“I hate to tell you this but my wife friend [sic] is over with their kids and her husband is black! If [sic] is an Attorney but should I be worried?” Furminger’s friend, an SFPD officer, responded: “Get ur pocket gun. Keep it available in case the monkey returns to his roots. Its [sic] not against the law to put an animal down.” Furminger responded, “Well said!”
In response to a text from another SFPD officer regarding the promotion of a black officer to sergeant, Furminger wrote: “Fuckin n*****.”
Furminger also wrote that he was watching one particular black family “like a hawk,” that it was “worth every penny” to live in a neighborhood “away from the savages,” “White power,” and “Cross burning lowers blood pressure! I did the test myself!” His bail hearing is set for next week.
The four officers who exchanged virulently racist and homophobic text messages were identified by multiple sources with the San Francisco Chronicle as Michael Robison, Noel Schwab, Rain Daugherty and Michael Celis. Last month, three officers were reassigned to non-public-contact positions in the department, while one took personal leave. San Francisco police Chief Greg Suhr said Saturday that while he couldn’t confirm the identities of the police officers, he would fire the individuals who sent the text messages.
African Americans make up just six percent of San Francisco’s population, but are seven times more likely to be arrested than whites, a California Department of Justice report found in 2012.
According to the Bay Citizen, “San Francisco officers currently receive about 42 hours of ‘impartial policing’ and ‘cultural competency’ training, in which officers learn about the differences between racism and racial profiling and the challenges facing low-income minority communities. Every five years, officers attend state-mandated ‘advanced officer training,’ which includes about two hours on racial profiling.”
San Francisco police officers aren’t alone in sending and responding to racist electronic text exchanges. In a report released early March, the U.S. Department of Justice found systemic racial bias throughout the Ferguson Police Department and local court system in Missouri. Ferguson was the site of a police shooting of the unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, an event that spurred nationwide protests over police brutality. The investigation found that a Ferguson officer mocked an African-American man as “hooked on phonics,” while another email contained jokes that are based on offensive stereotypes about Muslims.