On Friday, San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr said that he has moved to dismiss an additional seven police officers who sent or received racially charged texts.
According to The New York Times, Suhr said that the texts sent by the officers between 2011 and 2012 “are of such despicable thinking that those responsible clearly fall below the minimum standards required to be a police officer.”
Some of the text messages referred to lynching of African-Americans and burning crosses. Others contained demeaning comments about Mexicans, Filipinos and homosexuals. One text message was made up of only two words, “White Power.”
The Los Angeles Times reported that Suhr’s recommendation followed a revelation that at least 14 officers and department employees had been messaging each other the derogatory comments and jokes.
“The officers responsible for the reprehensible texts should be separated from the SFPD as soon as practical,” Suhr said in a statement. “The fine, right-minded men and women of the SFPD that are of the impeccable character required of a police officer expect no less.”
The text messages were initially exposed in a court filing during the trial of former San Francisco Police Officer Ian Furminger, who wrote several of the texts. He was later convicted for corruption and sentenced to serve 41 months in prison pending an appeal.
The seven police officers Suhr recommended for dismissal have already been suspended. All of their cases have been sent to the police commission with a recommendation that they be fired. Another officer has already resigned.
The six other officers involved have been either moved to desk jobs or have been suspended for up to 10 days without pay. While they violated department policy, it was not to the degree that Suhr felt they should be fired.
Attorneys for the officers have stated that the text messages did not accurately represent their clients’ opinions. They are calling them a “little more than naïve banter meant to blow off steam in their high-stress jobs.”
However, the city’s public defenders and district attorney offices are both conducting investigations into the officers’ caseloads for a time period of ten years back to confirm they did not act out in hostility toward gays or racial minorities.
The New York Times reported that officials have acknowledged that the texts have shaken confidence in the San Francisco Police Department, which is responsible for public safety in a city that has long prided itself on inclusiveness and open-mindedness, has a large gay and lesbian population, and is among the most racially diverse cities in the country.