The statute of limitations prevented several San Francisco officers who exchanged a series of bigoted text messages from being disciplined.
The correspondences, which referred to African Americans as “monkeys”, “half-breeds” and the N-Word were initially uncovered in 2012. According to the SF Gate, the conversations were obtained within the scope of a search warrant when Sgt. Ian Furminger was being investigated for corruption.
The first mention of the messages was in April 2014 during Furminger’s court proceedings. In February, Furminger was found guilty of felony corruption charges for taking and distributing money and other items found at the scene of drug searches.
Following Furminger’s conviction, Police Chief Greg Suhr moved to have nine officers fired and six disciplined.
This week, Judge Ernest Goldsmith ruled that police officials waited too long to bring up misconduct charges and the officers could not face any disciplinary action or further investigation under the Peace Officer Bill of Rights.
“It is not in the public interest to let police misconduct charges languish,” said Goldsmith “The public has a right to have accusations against police officers be promptly adjudicated.”
Sgt. Yulanda Williams, president of Officers for Justice, an organization representing African American and other nonwhite officers was referenced as a “ni**a bi**h” in the text messages. Williams expressed her disappointed with the judge’s ruling.
“For this judge to say he’s thinking of the interest of the public–is the public expected to go on with their business and pretend nothing ever happened?”
She added, “The citizens are still in a situation where they’re questioning whether or not they should embrace law enforcement or fear them. That’s wrong. We need to stop sweeping things under the carpet and deal with it.”
At the time, three of the nine officers that were recommended for firing — Michael Robison, Noel Schwab and Michael Celis — resigned. Upon learning the judge’s ruling, Celis asked to be reinstated and he, along with his colleagues have returned to the force.
The Police Department maintains that the officers were not disciplined in a more timely fashion in efforts not to compromise the case against Furminger who was sentenced to four years in Federal prison.
Suhr plans to appeal the court’s decision and suspend the officers in the coming months. The officers were briefly suspended without pay during the investigation.
Christine Falvey, a spokeswoman for San Francisco’s mayor, Ed Lee released a statement to acknowledge his disapproval of the court’s decision.
“The mayor was disturbed at the hateful messages that were exchanged, and he believes that the conduct of these officers displays a bias that is incompatible with being a police officer in San Francisco, or anywhere else for that matter,” said Falvey.
“Every officer in the San Francisco Police Department must be held to the highest standard of conduct.”
See below for a transcript of some of the messages exchanged between the officers.