Racist Texts Prompt Probe of S.F. Police Officers

(Alex Emslie/KQED)

(Alex Emslie/KQED)

By Alex Emslie

The San Francisco Police Department says it’s investigating four current members of the force who reportedly joined in an exchange of racist and homophobic text messages with an SFPD sergeant recently convicted on theft and corruption charges, KQED has learned.

The texts (read below), which were disclosed in a court filing by federal prosecutors on Friday, all involve former Sgt. Ian Furminger, convicted in December for his role in a series of thefts from drug suspects.

Furminger is appealing his conviction to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. He was formerly a supervisor in the Police Department’s Mission District plainclothes unit.

The Police Department says the texts, sent between late 2011 and the middle of 2012, implicate four other officers who are now the subjects of a department inquiry.

“It’s an internal affairs investigation looking into officers who have shown extreme bias, which has no place in the San Francisco Police Department,” Sgt. Monica Macdonald said. “The officers were reassigned some time ago while the investigation is under way.”

Federal prosecutors included more than two dozen text conversations in a federal court filing opposing Furminger’s request to remain out on bail while he awaits his appeal. He was sentenced to three years, five months in prison last month.

The texts show Furminger and other San Francisco police officers repeatedly swapping slurs about black people and gay people, including other police officers. In one exchange on Nov. 9, 2011, Furminger writes about his son’s school:

“We got two blacks at my boys school and they are brother and sister! There cause dad works for the school district and I am watching them like hawks.”

The response, from an unnamed civilian: “Do you celebrate qaunza [sic] at your school?”

Furminger: “Yeah we burn the cross on the field! Then celebrate Whitemas … Its worth every penny to live here [Walnut Creek] away from the savages.”

An unnamed officer texted the phrase “White power” to Furminger, who later repeats the phrase in a text to an SFPD officer. He also texted “White power family” to a civilian, followed by a redacted reference to his home address.

An anonymous SFPD officer had a suggestion for Furminger after the convicted ex-sergeant texted that a friend of his wife’s was visiting with her husband, who is black:

“Get ur pocket gun. Keep it available in case the monkey returns to his roots,” the response says. “Its not against the law to put an animal down.”

Furminger responded: “Well said.”

Furminger also repeatedly calls another officer a “fag,” and makes racist comments about Mexican and Filipino people.

While the texts were all recovered from Furminger’s personal cellphone, it’s not immediately clear whether the officers he was communicating with were using department-issued phones.

Sgt. Macdonald said it doesn’t necessarily matter, though, as the texts appear to violate SFPD’s policy prohibiting biased policing either way.

“If someone’s biased, whether this occurs on duty or off duty, it’s something we take very seriously,” she said.

Furminger’s attorney did not immediately respond for a request for comment. Federal Judge Charles Breyer is expected to take up Furminger’s bail motion next week.

Read the government’s filing below:


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