Sunday, March 15, 2015

Why SFPD Must Keep Racist, Homophobic Cops on the Force

Idris Shelley. Sheila DeToy. Alex Nieto. Matthew Hoffman. Amilcar Perez-Lopez. Just a few of the names of civilians killed by members of the San Francisco Police Department. Not one of the officers who fatally shot them or any other civilian has been indicted by district attorney's over the years, forget about being driven from the force or jailed.

On Friday, March 13, reporter Alex Emslie over at KQED's site reported on troubling texts contained in a federal court filing involving former SFPD Sgt. Ian Furminger who was convicted recently in federal court of theft and corruption charges. Emslie writes:

"The texts show Furminger and other San Francisco police officers repeatedly swapping slurs about black people and gay people, including other police officers. In one exchange on Nov. 9, 2011, Furminger writes about his son’s school:

"'We got two blacks at my boys school and they are brother and sister! There cause dad works for the school district and I am watching them like hawks.' [...]

"Furminger: 'Yeah we burn the cross on the field! Then celebrate Whitemas … Its worth every penny to live here [Walnut Creek] away from the savages. [...]

"An anonymous SFPD officer had a suggestion for Furminger after the convicted ex-sergeant texted that a friend of his wife’s was visiting with her husband, who is black:

“'Get ur pocket gun. Keep it available in case the monkey returns to his roots,' the response says. 'Its not against the law to put an animal down.” [...]

"Furminger also repeatedly calls another officer a 'fag,' and makes racist comments about Mexican and Filipino people."

Let's now turn to Jaxon Van Derbeken's story in the March 15 SF Chronicle about the four officers facing an SFPD internal investigation:

"In 2009, [Noel] Schwab was the unwitting star of a video showing him arresting a skateboarder. In the confrontation, Zach Stow was handcuffed and arrested for illegal skateboarding. Before the arrest, Schwab is seen threatening to break Stow’s his arm 'like a twig' if he resists. Although there was a departmental investigation, it is not clear whether he was disciplined in connection with the incident."

Since California's Supreme Court upheld the privilege of cops' disciplinary records remaining sealed from the taxpayers, we don't know if Schwab faced a penalty the skateboarder case. Then there's officer Michael Robison. The Chron says:

"The latest investigation is not the first time Robison has been accused of using a racial epithet. Three years after he joined the force, Robison faced internal misconduct charges related to an incident in which he was accused of placing a loaded firearm under the chin of a suspect and calling him a racial slur."

His charges were dismissed by the Police Commission. What about the third cop? From the Chron: 

"[Michael] Celis, 47, a 16-year veteran, has been in trouble in the past. In 2004, he was charged with four counts of misconduct stemming from an incident in which he was accused of flashing his badge and offering a $100 bribe to try to get into his estranged wife’s Burlingame hotel room. He was also charged with disobeying the department’s order that he be disarmed when he bought a gun the day after surrendering his service revolver in the hotel incident."

Celis was slapped on the wrist with a suspension. The fourth SFPD officer, Rain Daugherty, apparently has no blots of shame on his record.

And what do our Chief of Police, Greg Suhr, and the Mayor have to say about these guys? The Chron quotes them saying: 

"'It makes me sick to my stomach to even have these guys around,' [Suhr] said. [...] "Christine Falvey, a spokeswoman for Mayor Ed Lee, said the mayor found the texts 'both disturbing and shocking' and that he vowed that 'such actions have no place in the Police Department.'"

I say keep these four SFPD officers on the force. Let them find ways to make amends while on duty and penalize them with lots of unpaid community service to racial minorities and gays. Whether they stay or are fired, they remind us it's apparently OK to Suhr and Lee that cops kill civilians and get away with murder, but using racist and homophobic slurs and offensive language can get you into hot water and may be something to get you fired.

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