Eight SFPD officers suspended in racist texting scandal

SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) - San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr on Friday announced the conclusion of an Internal Affairs investigation into racist and homophobic text messages sent by officers.

Suhr said at least one police sergeant and a captain were involved. "It just makes me sick to even talk about it," said Suhr. "Certainly to have a member as high ranking as a captain was particularly disheartening."

The texts surfaced a couple of weeks ago after former officer Ian Furminger was sentenced on federal corruption charges.

Fourteen officers in all were the subject of an internal investigation. Suhr says eight - including the captain - sent messages sickening enough to warrant immediate suspension and eventual termination.

Michael Robison - a gay police officer and 23 year veteran - resigned over the texts he shared with Furminger.

On Friday, Officer Michael Celis, a 16 year veteran of the force, announced he'd step down as well - a move that may help the officers keep their pensions.

"Those [texts] don't represent his views, they don't represent how he approached his work and his life," said San Francisco attorney Tony Brass, who represents Celis and Robison. "But he understands that the texts are incompatible with continuing his work as a San Francisco police officer."

In a statement, San Francisco Police Officers Association President Martin Halloran said, "These officers need to be afforded their due process... If these allegations are proven to be true... there is no place for this type of behavior within the San Francisco Police Officers Association or the SFPD."

The officers will go before the Police Commission, which will have the final say on whether to terminate them or mete out another form of discipline.

Critics on Friday called for reform in the department. "We have to vet officers," said San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi, "so we don't have officers who hold racist views that are going to endanger not only themselves but the public, and also provide training on unconscious bias."

Suhr said the department recently restored a racial profiling class that had lost funding and plans to examine officers' backgrounds for warning signs.

"You have to assume that there could be more," said Suhr. "So we're going to look at their personal history questionnaires to see if there's some commonality that we hired somebody that we should've known that we shouldn't have hired."