Afghan San Francisco police officer says some colleagues called him a terrorist, muted body cameras

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A police officer of Afghan descent alleged on Tuesday that he has been the target of retaliation after reporting racial and religious discrimination at the hands of some of his fellow police officers who called him a terrorist, a sand n----- and wrote on his locker that he belongs to ISIS.

In addition, the officer alleges he witnessed racism by some fellow officers against African-American and Latino citizens and victims, and heard and bigoted remarks from some officers toward homosexuals in the traditionally left-leaning city. He also claims he saw colleagues mute body camera audio at crime scenes to make inappropriate remarks.

San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi held a news conference on behalf of the officer, who has filed a formal complaint against the department, to shine a light on the alleged discrimination and to compel the police department to offer better diversity training and curb retaliation against people who speak out.

The officer read from a statement at the event. He asked to keep his face out of the spotlight and his name private.

"I've been labeled a rat," he told reporters. "And I fear for my safety." He said he finally decided to go public with his allegations because he has "lost faith" in the police department's internal affairs investigative process.

The San Francisco Police Department responded in a statement that read in part, "In the past three years, SFPD has implemented a number of measures to ensure all members of the public and our department are treated with respect and dignity." The department confirmed there are three ongoing investigations by SFPD and the dity’s Department of Human Resources. "SFPD will thoroughly investigate all alleged misconduct uncovered during these investigations which implicates any member of this department," the statement read. 

The officer first filed a formal complaint with the San Francisco Police Department’s Equal Employment Opportunity Department in November 2017. 

Among his allegations: 

•    He was repeatedly accused by colleagues of being a terrorist.He said he was told he could leave his RPGs and grenades at home, and if his family members were planning an attack so the officer could “put them down gently.” He also reported being asked if his police radio earpiece was connected to a bomb. In one instance, an officer claimed to see wires coming out of the officer’s duty bag and said “tick tick, that’s what I hear.” 

•    In August 2017, someone scrawled “tick-tick” on his locker. On Nov. 6, 2017, the officer found and photographed graffiti on his locker that included an ISIS flag and the words “go back.” 

•    A fellow officer referred to him as a “sand n-----” and his sergeant asked him if he knew any “towelheads.”  

•    Several instances of anti-Muslim harassment by fellow officers, such as a colleague applauding the Trump Administration’s Muslim ban, warning against Muslims infiltrating law enforcement, telling him he can’t detonate himself in exchange for 72 virgins since he is a police officer, and taking him to a strip club in a deliberate attempt to embarrass him. 

The officer also said he witnesses colleagues making derogatory statements about regular people.

•    While on patrol with a colleague in November 2017, a colleague allegedly told the officer, “I want to get guns, and the only people who have guns are blacks and Hispanics. The department doesn’t like us to make judgments like that, but if I see a black person behind the wheel of a vehicle, I’ll pull the car over and figure out probable cause later.” The same colleague later referred to an African-American motorist as a monkey, the officer said. 

•    An officer repeatedly called his colleagues a “faggot” and he saw a colleague yell the slur at a rideshare driver. 

•    He witnessed colleagues routinely mute their body worn cameras to make inappropriate comments at crime scenes, including dismissing a rape victim because she was a sex worker and threatening to call immigration on a Latino motorist.  

•    He heard several officers expressing support for the white nationalist movement, complaining the group had been maligned by the media. 

The officer, who joined the SFPD in June 2016, also described a pattern of retaliation when he spoke out.

He said colleagues suddenly found problems with his performance, complained he was making them deal with internal investigations, and accused him of not being able to take a joke. He also said he received calls from members of the Police Officers Association who asked probing questions about the nature of his complaints. His alleged mistakes on the job were broadcast on police radio and meetings he and his family scheduled with top administrators to discuss the issue were canceled without his knowledge.

Adachi said that this officer isn’t the first SFPD whistleblower to claim retaliation, and he fave four examples.

  • Joel Babbs, an African-American officer, claimed last November to have faced months of departmental retaliation for alleging racism in the ranks, culminating in Babbs being charged with vehicle registration fraud and making a false police report.
  • In January, San Francisco settled a lawsuit with retired police officer Patricia Burley for $100,000. Burley claimed she was forced to retire after she blew the whistle on a colleague’s criminal conduct. 
  • In 2015, the city paid former internal affairs attorney Kelly O’Haire $725,000 after she filed a whistleblower retaliation lawsuit, claiming she faced threats after handling a discipline case against then-Deputy Chief Greg Suhr. 
  • When Lt. Yulanda Williams, head of the Black Officers Association, spoke out in 2015 against bigotry in the department after being the target of racist texts sent by SFPD officers, she was denounced by the San Francisco Police Officers Association. The POA president sent a letter to the union’s 2,000 members, saying he was “disturbed” by Williams’ accusations and denying any racism in the ranks or police practices.  

Adachi said these cases demonstrate that the department is still beset by deeply ingrained bias.

“In order to eliminate racism in the ranks, police culture must rid itself of its ‘no snitching’ ethos," Adachi said. "Fear of speaking out due to retaliation has been an enormous barrier to real reform in San Francisco." 

The discrimination has been so disheartening, the officer said, because he has wanted to be a police officer since he was 8 years old. It was a San Francisco police officer who was so kind to him and his family new immigrants first touching down on U.S. soil when they arrived at San Francisco International Airport.

As for his future with SFPD, the officer told KTVU that he has no plans on quitting. In fact, he plans to work in San Francisco for 30 more years.