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Case of SFPD officers in racist text message scandal on hold

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Ian Furminger is shown after a court hearing/Photo by Jonah Lamb, S.F. Examiner

For more than a month, 8 San Francisco police officers who allegedly sent racist text messages, facing dismissal and discipline, have been on paid leave and the disciplinary proceedings against them have been halted, pending a court hearing scheduled for Monday.

On May 19, a San Francisco Superior Court ordered the San Francisco Police Commission to halt all matters relating to the discipline of the officers, according to court filings.

One of the 8 officers, eight of whom Chief Greg Suhr recommended for dismissal, filed a May 11 petition in San Francisco Superior Court and was granted a stay pending a hearing on the matter, said Deputy Chief Mikail Ali on Thursday afternoon at a City Hall hearing on racial bias in the force.

“Superior Court has directed us not to proceed any further,” said Ali, who also said the court has mandated that the officers on unpaid leave be placed on paid leave until the matter is decided.

Ali said the court will decide Monday if a change of venue is warranted, which could put the whole process into the court system instead of before the police commission.

The hearing is set for June 22 at 9 a.m. before Judge Ernest Goldsmith in room 302.

The Superior Court case was filed by Rain Daugherty, one of the officers caught allegedly sending racist and homophobic text messages from 2011 to 2012. The case also includes other officers who have bound their cases with Daugherty.

Suhr sent the case of Daugherty, along with other officers, to the Police Commission and recommended eight should be fired. The commission has final say on serious discipline such as firing.

In all, 14 officers were identified as taking some part in the text messages; eight of those officers were recommended for dismissal — one of which resigned — and a number of other face lesser discipline.

The scandal emerged in a March filing in federal court in the case of former Sgt. Ian Furminger. Furminger, along with former Officer Edmond Robles, were convicted earlier this year in a federal corruption trial.

Daugherty’s suit admits he sent the texts, notes that a search warrant was issued for his phone on Dec. 17, 2011 and then for Furminger in Dec. 2012. It adds the San Francisco Police Department had in its possession the text messages in question, but did not file disciplinary charges within a year of finding out about the texts.

Daugherty’s suit claims his rights as a police officer have been trampled and requests all charges be dropped against him and all the other officers, that he be placed back on paid duty and be compensated for his travails.

The department’s argued that knowledge of the texts was limited since a federal investigation into the Furminger case was ongoing, so the text messages went only to the Internal Affairs unit criminal division. The ongoing investigation, the department argues, put a hold on the statute of limitations.

jlamb@sfexaminer.com

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