As racial tensions between minority groups and police continue to flare across the country, four San Francisco police officers risk being removed from the force for sending and receiving bigoted and racist text messages.
The graphic text messages surfaced in the course of a federal case against former SFPD Sgt. Ian Furminger, who was attempting to appeal a 40-month prison sentence in federal court on corruption charges. Federal prosecutors presented the text messages, which were written in 2011 and 2012, in an effort to block Furminger’s appeals claim.
The text messages are particularly disturbing, especially in light of the increasing frequency of African Americans suffering abuse and even death at the hands of white police officers, a social issue highlighted by the shooting death of black teenager Michael Brown by white Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri last year.
Here are just a few of the messages that were reportedly sent between Furminger and his colleagues, whom local media has identified as Michael Robison, Noel Schwab, Rain Daugherty and Michael Celis.
“I hate to tell you this but my wife friend [sic] is over with their kids and her husband is black! If [sic] is an Attorney but should I be worried?” Furminger’s former colleague responded: “Get ur pocket gun. Keep it available in case the monkey returns to his roots. Its [sic] not against the law to put an animal down.”Furminger shot back, “Well said!”
In response to a message from another SFPD police officer regarding the promotion of a black officer to sergeant, Furminger wrote: “Fuckin n*****.”
He also signed off on one of the messages with: “White power family.”
A message dated April 18, 2012 reads: "20,000 bees are in Vacaville near school, but they are not dangerous like black people."
Such sentiments on the part of some of the SFPD’s officers, whom, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, have each worked on the force for more than 10 years, appear to be a contributing factor in the rise of police action against minority groups.
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However, the lawyer for Noel Schwab, 49, who was recently transferred from Central Division after he was identified as having exchanged communications with Furminger, attempted to play down the severity of the comments.
Schwab’s attorney, Julia Fox, said Sunday that Schwab “did not intend to malign anyone, generally or specifically,” the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
“While the alleged comments were certainly bad taste, and wholly unacceptable, they were intended for a specific recipient and were not indicative of any animus that Officer Schwab has toward any group or class.”
Although African Americans comprise just 6 percent of San Francisco’s population, they are about seven times more likely to be arrested than whites, who constitute 41.8 percent of the city’s demographic, according to The Bay Citizen, quoting statistics from the California Department of Justice.
According to the Department of Justice report, 8,198 African Americans and 9,151 whites were arrested in San Francisco in 2010, along with 316 Hispanic adults and nine Hispanic juveniles.
In addition to the high-profile shooting death of Michael Brown, there have been a number of disturbing cases of African Americans being killed by white officers.
Last year, Eric Garner, an unarmed black man accused of illegally selling cigarettes on the street in New York City, died after being placed in an illegal choke hold by a police officer.
Earlier this month, Tony Robinson, 19, was shot dead by a police officer in Madison, Wisconsin, sparking a march of over 1,000 people who rallied around a message being heard around the country: “Black Lives Matter.”
San Francisco police Chief Greg Suhr on Saturday had harsh words for those responsible for writing the racially charged messages. “It makes me sick to my stomach to even have these guys around,” he said.
Suhr said he will seek “nothing short of terminating officers” who took part in sending the incriminating text messages, according to ABC7 News,