A group of nine San Francisco police officers who exchanged racist and homophobic text messages with one another likely won’t face disciplinary action because the charges against them were filed too late after their alleged misconduct was discovered, a San Francisco judge suggested in a tentative ruling on Friday.
“Get ur pocket gun,” one officer texted a sergeant who complained that a friend of his wife’s had brought along her husband, a black man and an attorney, to dinner. “Keep it available in case the monkey returns to his roots. Its not against the law to put an animal down… U may have to kill the half breed kids too. Don’t worry. Their [sic] an abomination of nature anyway.”
The text messages called on black people to be spayed, praised white power, and made frequent use of racial and homophobic epithets.
According to KQED, which broke the story, the San Francisco Superior Court judge “appears likely” to approve the officers’ petition to “rescind all disciplinary charges against the officers, purge all documents supporting the case against them and pay each officer a civil penalty of up to $25,000, plus the cost of their lawsuits.”
Judge Ernest H. Goldsmith will hear arguments related to the case on Monday, but said in a tentative ruling that “the one-year statute of limitations period for investigating officer misconduct… serves to both protect the rights of police officers and to ensure the public’s safety.”
It appears likely that he is siding with the officers’ lawyers who have argued that the case violates the one-year deadline for taking action against officers after evidence of their alleged misconduct is discovered. In May, Goldsmith ordered that the officers involved in the case be placed on paid, rather than unpaid, leave.
The San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) decided to wait to keep the evidence of the officers’ actions secret as it worked through a federal criminal case against a police sergeant.
ThinkProgress’ Esther Yu-Hsi Lee reported in March:
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.
“Choices have consequences,” Alison Berry, an attorney for one of the accused officers said. “[SFPD] made the choice to agree to that, and the consequence is that they knew that information but didn’t act in a timely manner on it.”
San Francisco Deputy City Attorney Kenneth Walczak countered that the statute of limitations for misconduct cases can be paused if they relate to ongoing criminal investigations or prosecutions. The officers are trying to “paint a picture of a plot by the Police Department to sit on evidence and delay disciplining them,” he said. Instead, Walczak argued that the SFPD and federal law enforcement did everything “by the book.”
Only six percent of San Francisco residents are black, but they are seven times more likely to be arrested than their white counterparts, according to a California Department of Justice Report from 2012. That’s the year in which the racist and homophobic text messages were discovered by the SFPD.
Here is a list of more of the text messages for which the officers are facing reprisal:
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*****.”