VICE News is closely watching policing in America. Check out the Officer Involved blog here.
Four veterans of the San Francisco police department are facing harsh criticism and are now under investigation after racist and homophobic text messages found on their phones came to the public's attention as part of a legal filing in a former cop's corruption trial.
The officers, all of whom have been on the force for more than 10 years, were identified by the San Francisco Chronicle as Michael Robinson, Noel Schwab, Rain Daugherty and Michael Celis — though the SFPD did not confirm their identities. The four have been transferred to non-public-contact jobs after the text messages first surfaced. SFPD police chief Greg Suhr on Saturday used some tough language to describe the officers, and said he is looking to fire them.
"It makes me sick to my stomach to even have these guys around," he said. "I'll do everything I can do to separate them from the police department."
The texts, which date back to 2011 and 2012, emerged as part of an investigation into Ian Furminger, a former sergeant with the department, who was recently convicted on corruption charges.
In one instance, Furminger texted one of the officers that the black husband of one of his ex-wife's friends was visiting his home. The unnamed officer wrote back: "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."
"You may have to kill the half-breeds too,'' the officer added in a later message.
In another instance, another unidentified officer wrote to Furminger: "All n— must f— hang."
"You cannot unring the bell on these text messages — anybody who has sent these text messages should not be a police officer," Suhr said. "Ian Furminger should never have been a police officer; he's a disgrace. These other officers have disgraced the department as well."
Three of the four officers under investigation had previously been investigated for misconduct, the Chronicle reported.
"No one is suggesting that bigotry and racism in texts are acceptable," Tony Brass, attorney for two of the officers told the Chronicle. "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."
This latest controversy over overt racism within police departments came days after the release of a Department of Justice report on the Ferguson police department, which documented, among other abuses, a series of racist emails sent by officers and city officials — including some mentioning President and Michelle Obama.
Photo via Flickr