Five San Francisco officers found
exchanging racist, homophobic texts
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[April 01, 2016]
By Jim Christie
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Five more San
Francisco police officers were found to be exchanging racist and
homophobic text messages with one another, forcing a review of hundreds
of criminal cases that may be compromised by their bias, the city's
chief prosecutor said on Thursday.
The disclosure by District Attorney George Gascon came a year
after 14 other members of the San Francisco Police Department were
caught up in a similar texting scandal.
The latest inquiry surfaced amid heightened scrutiny of police
encounters with members of minority groups following numerous
high-profile killings of unarmed black people by police across the
United States since mid-2014.
Gascon said he recommended in a letter on Wednesday to city Police
Chief Gregory Suhr that the five newly implicated officers be
assigned to desk duty to avoid adding to the potential caseloads
tainted by personal bias exposed in their text messages.
But in a written reply to Gascon, the police chief said he had
immediately suspended the officers when their conduct first came to
his department's attention last August, and that two of the officers
had since left the force.
Two others are facing termination proceedings, Suhr said in his
letter, released by his department.
The dozens of bigoted texts were unearthed from 5,000 pages of
material in an unrelated investigation, Gascon said in a telephone
interview. With some 20,000 additional pages still to be examined,
Gascon said more officers may be implicated.
Prosecutors have a duty to bring the texts to the attention of
defense lawyers whose clients were charged in cases that were
handled by the five officers and where discrimination based on race
or sexual orientation could be at issue, Gascon said.
"They provide evidence of racial bias, which is impeachable evidence
to the prosecution," he added.
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The president of the San Francisco Police Officers' Association
union, Martin Halloran, condemned “the appalling racist behavior
committed by a handful of officers,” in a statement quoted by news
The conduct in question ran from 2014 to late 2015, overlapping with
the time frame of last year's police texting scandal, although
Gascon said there was no connection between the two.
The police department sought to fire seven of the original group of
14 officers, but a judge ruled against the dismissals, citing the
statute of limitations.
The previous scandal resulted in a review of 4,000 cases, including
1,600 in which charges were brought, with 13 dismissals so far, city
(Reporting by Jim Christie in San Francisco; Writing and additional
reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Matthew Lewis
and Peter Cooney)
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