The San Francisco Chief of Police Greg Suhr has suspended seven out of the eight officers who allegedly sent racist and homophobic text messages in 2011 and 2012, and now the question of whether or not those officers will be terminated will be decided by the police commission.
The eight police officers were caught when a federal corruption probe took place, which revealed the content of their text messages. Messages revealed homophobic remarks made by the eight police officers, as well as racially-charged messages against Mexicans and Filipinos, and references to lynching and “white power.” Throughout their time in service, these police officers were stationed to work in predominantly minority neighborhoods.
Since these text messages have surfaced, Jeff Adachi, San Francisco’s public defender, has called for all police and legal cases these officers were involved in during their service to be re-examined. This measure is necessary to ensure that personal biases did not have any effect in the outcome of the cases. This task will cost the city both time and money, as officials re-examine more than a thousand cases.
For the time being, Suhr has taken action against the seven officers. “I have suspended them and they have been referred to the police commission with the recommendation of only termination — as it should be.” he said in a recent interview with The Guardian. He continued, “Their conduct is incompatible with a police officer.” The eighth officer has resigned.
Members of the Foghorn staff have mixed opinions about Suhr’s “recommendation of only termination,” and question whether or not holding personal racist and homophobic beliefs are valid reasons for losing one’s job. In this case, an investigation into the outcome of the police cases, as recommended by Adachi, would be the determining factor. If in fact the personal beliefs of the police officers did affect their job performances, then they should be fired for this reason.
Other Foghorn staff members strongly believe that the police officers should be terminated from their jobs as a direct result of the content revealed in the text messages, without any further investigation or re-examination of the cases. Furthermore, allowing for the resignation of one of the officers is unacceptable. Resignation allows for the police officer to easily walk away from the situation and keep their dignity without facing any consequences.
If the police officers in question do eventually re-enter the force, the San Francisco Police Department will be treading shallow water. Not only will the reputation of the SFPD be tainted, but the work of the force as a whole will be seen with suspicion and lack of credibility.
Police officers should treat all of whom they serve to protect with equality and fairness, and the revelation of such text messages prove that wasn’t the case. If the now suspended police officers are eventually terminated, this action will demonstrate to the remaining force, and those living in San Francisco and across the country, that the San Francisco Police Department will have a “zero tolerance” policy toward this kind of behavior.
If police officers return they may have to go through cultural sensitivity training. If so, we believe the training should not just state what kinds of oppressions exist, but also focus on understanding why such oppressions exist. Police officers need to know why ideas such as “white power” are harmful, and how acting upon their racial and/or homophobic biases affects communities economically, politically, and socially, so that they can truly be sensitive to the problems of the communities they are meant to help.