The San Francisco Public Defender on Tuesday released a number of racist and homophobic text messages sent by a San Francisco police officer mired in the latest scandal rocking the San Francisco Police Department.
Jeff Adachi said that the bigoted messages exchanged between three San Francisco police officers may affect at least 207 criminal cases, including three murder cases.
Adachi released text messages from former SFPD officer Jason Lai after his office received them from SFPD on Friday in connection to a robbery case Lai was investigating.
Two other current SFPD officers — Curtis Liu and Keith Ybaretta — were also named by prosecutors as being involved in the texting scandal. Adachi said that his office didn’t have their messages. San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr said at a press conference Tuesday afternoon that their messages were equally reprehensible.
“It’s time for officers to speak up when their colleagues exhibit this kind of bigotry,” Adachi said. “It is corroding community trust and making it harder for good officers to do their jobs.”
The messages, which are rampant with racial and sexual slurs, criticize African Americans, Latinos, Indians and the LGBT community, Adachi said.
According to Adachi, Lai compares black people to “barbarians” and “a pack of wild animals on the loose.” Adachi’s statement said that he used a Cantonese slang for blacks, writing: “Bunch of hock gwais shooting each other. Too bad none of them died. One less to worry about.”
Another text read: “I hate that beaner, but I think the n– is worse.”
Another one reads: “Indian ppl are disgusting,” while a third message says: “Burn down walgreens and kill the bums.”
“It is chilling how casually former officer Lai dehumanizes the citizens he was sworn to serve,” Adachi said. “He wished violence upon the very people he was being paid to protect and none of his colleagues turned him in.”
This is the second texting scandal to mire the city’s police department in recent years — the first one involving five officers who sent racist and homophobic texts between 2011 and 2012, was revealed during a police corruption trial.
Suhr said that his department had provided the text messages to the Public Defender’s office after accessing cell phone records during the murder investigation.
“The department acted immediately by suspending these officers and recommending them to the Police Commission for disciplinary action,” Suhr said.
Suhr said that four police officers were involved in this particular text messaging scandal, and three of them were behind the texts released Tuesday. All three voluntarily left the department, and a fourth one is currently appearing before the Police Commission.
“There is no room in the SFPD for anyone who holds this kind of discriminatory views, no tolerance … Anytime an officer presents him or herself this way they will be gone,” Suhr said.
When asked by a reporter if he was going to resign, Suhr said no.
“I plan to move the department forward,” he said. “We’re better than this …99.9 percent of this police department is feeling the same way I am, betrayed by people who wear the same uniform.”
CNN was able to obtain some of the text messages before they were released by the Public Defender’s office.
Lai’s attorney Dan Nobles told CNN that the texts were “not reflective of who he is” and that “there is no evidence he carried out any of those sentiments as an officer.”
“He was well liked and well loved on his beat,”he said.
The text messages were revealed after police investigated a rape accusation against Lai, who was charged last month with two misdemeanor counts of unlawful possession of criminal history information and four misdemeanor counts of misuse of confidential Department of Motor Vehicles information.
Lai is currently free on bail.
“It would be naive to believe these officers’ bigotry was reserved solely for text messages,” Adachi said. “It is a window into the biases they harbored. It likely influenced who they stopped, who they searched, who they arrested, and how they testified in criminal trials.”
When asked about disciplinary action against the officers, Suhr said there was no discipline more severe than being separated from the department.
Suhr said that the entire police department would undergo bias training with help from the Department of Justice by the end of the year.
Meanwhile, activists are holding an ongoing hunger strike and are calling for Suhr to be fired. Suhr in response has said he has no intention of leaving the police department
© 2016 NBCUniversal Media
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