San Francisco Police Chief Moves to Fire Officers Over Racist Texts

San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr said Friday he is recommending several officers be fired over accusations that they have exchanged racist and homophobic texts.

Two officers who were involved in the racist text scandal have resigned. Suhr said Friday he expects more officers may do the same.

"It just makes me sick to even talk about this," Suhr said. "There were eight standing officers who engaged in such repulsive conversation via text that I have suspended them and they have been referred to the police commission with a recommendation of only termination."

In addition to the two officers who have resigned, two were reassigned and sent to the police commission for discipline. Four others face lesser punishments.

The names of the officers have not been released by police, but attorneys representing them have identified them as Michael Robison, Noel Schwab, Rain Daugherty, and Michael Celis.

The texts included slurs against blacks, Mexicans, Filipinos and gays. They also feature officers and civilians using the phrase "White power" repeatedly.

What’s now been dubbed “Textgate” stemmed from a federal investigation into Sergeant Ian Furminger, who was convicted in February of fraud and conspiracy. Investigators searched his private cell phone and uncovered countless racist and homophobic text messages, some of which were exchanged with other San Francisco police officers. Court documents revealed by federal prosecutors in a motion to deny bail made some of these texts public.

One read, “All n___s must (expletive) hang.”

In another, someone asks him, “Do you celebrate [Kwanzaa] at your school?” to which he replies, “Yeah, we burn the cross on the field. Then we celebrate Whitemas.”

San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi said this shows an endemic problem plaguing the SFPD.

“This is very unusual because we’re getting a view of sort of what’s going on between at least this group of police officers from one police officer’s private cell phone,” Adachi said. “We would not know this if it were not for the federal corruption trial and investigation that resulted in learning about these texts.”

Tony Brass, the attorney representing Celis, said it’s unclear whether San Francisco can even terminate these officers because of a law that indicates the department has a statute of limitations on when it can act or penalize an officer for conduct. Brass said he believes SFPD knew about these text messages for more than a year – passing that statute.

"Naturally the texts are offensive and the community has legit concerns, but terminating a police officer is not that simple," Brass said. "There are rules."

Adachi issued the following statement Friday:

“Chief Greg Suhr’s recommendation to terminate officers accused of sending racist and homophobic text messages is a step in the right direction, and I strongly encourage the police commission follow suit.

The characterization of these hateful statements as innocent banter is dead wrong. This casual dehumanization leads to real life suffering and injustice. It foments a toxic environment in which citizens fear and distrust the police, brutality reigns, and good officers are less effective.

The chief and the police commission should require all SFPD officers to undergo at least 25 hours in racial bias training. Furthermore, they should institute a policy requiring officers who witness a colleague engaging in racial bias to report it to their superior officers or face discipline.

Training and reinforcement is the only way to ensure that racial bias by police does not harm our citizenry.

We look forward to reviewing all the cases and reports made by the officers involved in sending or responding to the racist texts. We expect that this will significantly widen our investigation."

NBC Bay Area's Kristofer Noceda, Jean Elle and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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