It has become almost an epidemic over the past few years — police officers caught making racist, sexist, or homophobic remarks on social media, through texts, and just about every other form of communication. The stories have become so commonplace that no one is surprised when the next one surfaces. But, the most recent incident of cops behaving badly comes out of one of America’s most liberal cities: San Francisco.
Four San Francisco police officers are under investigation for sending a string of racist, homophobic texts. The four, identified as Michael Robison, Noel Schwab, Rain Daugherty, and Michael Celis, have all been placed in positions where they have no contact with the public while the investigation proceeds. San Francisco police chief Greg Suhr says that he wants the four fired.
According to SFGate, the texts, which were sent in 2011 and 2012, came to light during a hearing for former SFPD Sgt. Ian Furminger, who was recently convicted on federal corruption charges. All of the officers involved are longtime veterans of the police force. SFGate reports that Daugherty is the only one of the four who has not been accused of some sort of misconduct in the past.
Schwab, who is a 16 year veteran of the force, was caught on video in 2009, threatening to break a skateboarder’s arm if he resisted arrest. It is unclear whether he faced any discipline for the incident.
Celis, also a 16 year veteran, was charged with misconduct in 2004 after an incident in which he was accused of showing his badge and offering a $100 bribe in order to get into his estranged wife’s hotel room. He was suspended over the incident.
Robison, who has been on the force for 23 years, has been accused of racism in the past. As a three year veteran, he was charged with misconduct after an incident where he placed a loaded gun under the chin of a suspect and called him a racial slur. The allegation of neglect of duty against him was not sustained by the police commission, and the charges were dropped.
Lawyer calls text messages “unfortunate, to say the least.”
Attorney Tony Brass, who represents Robison, and Chelis, says:
No one is suggesting that bigotry and racism in texts are acceptable. 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.
Brass says that his clients are “very remorseful.” But why? Because of what they did, or because they got caught? It’s one thing to send one or two racist messages, and then regret it, but another thing completely to engage in the behavior on a regular basis.
The messages would be disgusting coming from anyone. But they are particularly troubling coming from police officers. According to court documents, a message exchanged between Furminger and another officer in November, 2011, reads:
Do you celebrate Qaunza [sic] at your school?
Furminger: Yeah we burn the cross on the field. Then we celebrate Whitemas.
In another, Furminger says:
Cross burning lowers blood pressure! I did the test myself!
In response to that, another officer replies:
So do I. Every camping trip I burn an image of the prez.
Furminger also uses gay slurs in the texts. In one, he tells another officer:
I was trying to be nice to you, as everyone knows your [sic] gay. I love calling you a fag. Good enough?
Why do these stories keep surfacing, especially in supposedly liberal areas such as San Francisco, and New York City? These incidents suggest that police forces nationwide have a serious problem when it comes to some of the officers they hire. Either the police are having a hard time finding qualified recruits, or some of the people who have the qualities desired by various police forces also bring with them some very undesirable qualities. Once again, however, the main problem in many locales seems to be that most of the police are white, while most of the community members are black.
Here is a report, from KGO-TV:
Image via D.C.Atty/Flickr