Biased police texts may jeopardise 3000 convictions in San Francisco

Simon Blish

Prosecutors claim 3,000 convictions in San Francisco may now be in jeopardy, as racist and anti-LGBT texts have been discovered on the handset of a police officer while he was under investigation for sexual assault.

Officer Jason Lai and four colleagues have been accused of sending and receiving the prejudicial messages, which refer to black people as ‘barbarians’ and ‘wild animals’, while the euphenism ‘passive aggressive 528’ is used to refer to gay men. 528 refers to the code for a fire, and refers to a ‘flaming’ homosexual.

‘I hate that beaner, but I think the nig is worse,’ says one text on Jai’s phone, obtained by CNN.

The messages apparently reveal that officer Lai had sent and received offensive texts saying things like ‘Fuck that nig’ and ‘Indian ppl are disgusting’. He and three of the four colleagues connected to the messages have all left the force. The last officer involved is currently being disciplined.

San Francisco’s District Attorney is currently investigating whether the text messages – the latest in a recent spate of such discoveries – may have led to prejudicial treatment of defendants, and therefore resulted in unsound convictions. The messages were discovered while investigating the sexual assault allegations against Lai.

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Although prosecutors ruled there was insufficient evidence to try Lai for rape, he has been charged with two misdemeanor counts of unlawful possession of local criminal offender history information and four misdemeanor counts of misuse of confidential Department of Motor Vehicles information.

Lai claimed he couldn’t remember having sex with the victim, although she claims he raped her after they went drinking together. A colleague was also accused of giving Lai a tip off regarding the rape allegation, reports the NBC Bay Area.

San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr tried to dismiss eight officers regarding the possibly prejudicial text messages, but because he had delayed in taking disciplinary action, he was prevented from doing so by the District Attorney.

In a statement to SF Gate, Suhr said, ‘As with any big organization, you’re going to have people who are not as you would have them be. As soon as I found out about it, I took swift action. I think all the honorable men and women who serve this department know I give no quarter to this kind of thing.’

However, the text messages come at a bad time, as the force is already being investigated following the discover of other prejudiced messages discovered in court documents in March 2015. These earlier text messages apparently include reference to ‘white power’ as well as a variety of derogatory terms for minority groups, including the term ‘fags’ to refer to LGBT people.

An investigatory panel has been formed by District Attorney George Gascon. Charged with discovering whether wrongful convictions may have arisen as a result of bias in the force, the panel will review thousands of cases to ensure due process.

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These March 2015 texts came to light during another scandal within the force. In that earlier incident, the text messages were used as evidence by prosecutors to deny bail for former Sgt. Ian Furminger. Furminger was trying to appeal a conviction in December 2014 for his role in stealing from drug suspects.

Among the texts allegedly found on Furminger’s phone, he describes black people as ‘savages’, ‘niggers’ and animals. He also allegedly claimed to be watching two black siblings at his son’s school ‘like hawks’ and claims ‘cross burning lowers blood pressure’.

Messages received by Furminger allegedly say ‘All niggers must fucking hang’, ‘Niggers should be spayed’ and ‘Its [sic] not against the law to put an animal down’ when suggesting to Furminger to shoot a black house guest in case ‘the monkey returns to his roots’.

About Simon Blish

Writing, drawing, editing - Simon loves it all.