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Monday, 11 May 2015


  1. The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, BuzzFeed News, and other outlets are reporting that San Francisco prosecutors are investigating 3,000 criminal cases that may have been compromised by 14 police officers whose biases were revealed by recently uncovered racist, sexist, and homophobic text messages.
  2. District Attorney George Gascon convened a task force to evaluate each of the cases to determine whether any convictions should be overturned or pending cases dismissed. “If just one individual was wrongly imprisoned because of bias on the part of these officers — that’s one too many,” Gascon told the LA Times.
  3. Beyond those 3,000 cases in which the officers took part, the task force will also take on a larger job: evaluating whether a “culture of bias” exists in the police force.

“All ni**ers must fucking hang”: the text messages

The text messages that sparked the probe were originally uncovered in a court document. In March, prosecutors filed a motion opposing bail for former police officer Ian Furminger, who’d been sentenced on corruption-related charges. The motion listed his text messages — which included racial slurs and stereotypes about African Americans. They argued that the content of the text messages indicated he was not worthy of bail.
The text messages Furminger exchanged with people, including other San Francisco police officers, use racist statements to describe people whom we can assume to be San Francisco residents the officers were charged with serving (in response to a message saying “all ni**ers should be spayed,” Furminger replied, “I just saw one an hour ago with 4 kids”), as well as other police officers (“fuckin ni**er” was his response to a colleague’s promotion to sergeant).
Here are the messages revealed in the motion:

Government's opposition motion to defendant Furminger's motion for bail pending appeal (via LA Times)
Government's opposition motion to defendant Furminger's motion for bail pending appeal (via LA Times)

Government’s opposition motion to defendant Furminger’s motion for bail pending appeal. (via LA Times)

A “systemic problem” in a liberal city?

A columnist for the San Francisco Examiner asked in response to the revelations, “Does San Francisco have a Ferguson problem?”
It’s understandable that some are more surprised about the possibility of a “culture of bias” in a famously progressive city like San Francisco than in a city like Ferguson, Missouri, where the Justice Department officials recently concluded that police officers and court officials routinely violated the rights of African Americans — or even in Baltimore, where US Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced today that the Department of Justice will examine whether police used excessive force and abusive practices.
There’s a stark contrast between the racism revealed by the messages and what it suggests about how police officers operated, and the city’s liberal — and, in the perceptions of many, racially tolerant — reputation.
Despite that reputation, the racial disparities in criminal justice in the city are striking. Rev. Amos Brown, a San Francisco NAACP board member, told the LA Times that African Americans make up only about 5 percent of the city’s population but 60 percent to 70 percent of those in San Francisco’s juvenile hall. The Examiner reported that 47 percent of people arrested between 2009 and 2014 were black.
San Francisco public defender Jeff Adachi told the LA Times that the city has “a systemic problem” with racism, saying that “this is not an isolated case of 14 officers.”
It’s the type of scrutiny that’s recently been applied to Ferguson, Baltimore, and New York City — the only difference is that this time it’s been prompted by officers’ own words, rather than by an unarmed man’s death.

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