SAN FRANCISCO—The San Francisco Police Department announced that nine police officers under investigation for partaking in a series of bigoted texts would remain on paid leave.
On March 13, text messages exchanged over the span of two years, between 2011 and 2012, surfaced and were made public in a court filing. The investigation was initially focused on Sgt. Ian Furminger, 48, Officers Michael Robison, 46, Rain Daugherty, 40 and Michael Celis, 47. All officers had served the San Francisco Police Department for 10 years or more.
The texts were initially turned over as evidence in 2012 during Sgt. Ian Furminger’s arrest and verdict, but they were officially released to the public in February 2015. Furminger, who served the police force for nearly two decades was sentenced to 41 months in federal prison and issued a $25,000 fine for making false claims in court regarding the search of two apartments on the South of Market in December 2010.
Furminger and Officer Edmond Robles were convicted for taking and dividing thousands of dollars resulting from drug dealers and the money they kept in their homes. Furminger was denied bail. The messages discovered were said to have jeopardized Furminger’s case, particularly with testimonies provided by officers who pleaded on behalf of his innocence.
Upon further investigation, the San Francisco Police Department discovered that at least 10 other officers had taken part in the exchange of text messages; two of which were allegedly “single event texts,” but did not escalate to the frequency of the remaining eight officers.
SF Mayor Edwin Lee expressed that, “The content of these text messages displays a bias that is incompatible with the values of our City and incompatible with the ability to perform sworn duties as a police officer.”
Police Chief, Greg Suhr, firmly stated that all officers involved with the incident would be fired if investigations showed their involvement with writing and sharing offensive messages. “There were eight standing officers who engaged in such repulsive conversations via text messages,” Suhr said. “I have suspended them and they have been referred to the Police Commission with a recommendation of only termination — as it should be. Their conduct is incompatible with that of a police officer.”
In March, all officers were suspended with unpaid leave. Upon suspension, Michael Robison, who received publicity for being an openly gay officer, was the first among three other officers to resign. Robison’s attorney, Anthony Brass, stated, “He resigned in order to spare himself the stress of living knowing that he was going to be terminated.” Former officers, Michael Celis and Noel Schwab, shortly submitted their resignations after. Pay was reinstated to the remaining nine officers awaiting outcome of the case by Judge Ernest Goldsmith.
Nearly three months later, on June 24, it was stated that the nine San Francisco police officers would remain on paid leave while a judge decides whether the department waited too long for disciplinary action regarding the text messages. The officers are suing the city on the basis that the police department should have started disciplinary proceedings when the texts initially surfaced in 2012 during Furminger’s investigation. The officers’ lawyers argue that disciplinary proceedings should have been started within one year of being alerted the texts. Another court hearing is set in September.