Criminal case reveals new racist texts sent by more SFPD officers
By Jonah Owen Lamb
New allegations of racism among officers in the San Francisco Police Department have emerged from a criminal case, the San Francisco Examiner has learned.
“We were in the middle of an investigation and we discovered new racist and homophobic text messages that were being used,” District Attorney George Gascon told the Examiner on Thursday of the text messages.
Gascon said there were at least five officers involved, but the names of the officers and the content of the text messages were not immediately available. The text messages, however, apparently mocked the public outcry around an earlier text message scandal.
Last year, a group of San Francisco police officers were shown to have sent racist, bigoted and homophobic text messages to one another from 2011 to 2012. The texts emerged out of a federal police corruption trial and resulted in Chief Greg Suhr recommending that eight officers be fired and the rest be punished.
The new allegations come from a review of roughly 5,000 pages of text messages that are part of a criminal case, which Gascon did not name. The texts were sent from 2014 to 2015 by five officers who were not party to the scandal surrounding the earlier racist texts.
“The N word was used many times. They are of the same nature…as what we saw last year,” said Gascon, who was notified about the discovery this week. “These officers are completely unconnected with the 14 we saw last year.”
Gascon told Chief Greg Suhr about the new racist texts Wednesday so that the officers involved can be removed from public contact while an investigation is underway.
The Police Department did not immediately return a call for comment.
The District Attorney’s Office is also planning to notify defense counsel in cases involving the five officers.
“We still don’t know the full scope of the messages,” Gascon said.
While Gascon would not reveal many details in the ongoing investigation, he did say the phones were private. Whether they were used on duty is unclear.
The allegations call into question claims made by some that the department has no issues with race, and come amid numerous police reform efforts, some of which were spurred directly as a result of previous revelations of bigotry in the ranks.
“No one can say with a straight face now with these new text message that they are isolated,” said Gascon.
Gascon and a Blue Ribbon Panel he formed last year to look into police bias have been under attack from the Police Officers Association, which has said there are no issues of widespread racial bias in the department.
Most recently, POA leaders gave statements to their lawyers that they heard Gascon allegedly make racist remarks while he was police chief, the job he held prior to becoming district attorney.
Gascon called that claim “a lie.”