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Investigation upholds complaints against SFPD officer caught threatening deportation on camera

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(Mira Laing/Special to The Examiner)

The Department of Police Accountability has sustained multiple findings of wrongdoing against a San Francisco police officer who was caught on camera threatening Asian and Latino men with deportation last year.

The DPA, which investigates complaints against officers, issued preliminary findings on March 29 that Officer Joshua Fry had failed to comply with department general orders on enforcement of immigration law and biased policing and sustained allegations that he had made threats, used profanity and engaged in inappropriate behavior.

In all, the department sustained six of the seven allegations made against Fry in a complaint filed by former Police Commissioner Angela Chan and the Asian Law Caucus. An allegation that he had failed to comply with department policy regarding language access services was not sustained.

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Fry, who had been on the force for around 10 years, was seen on camera in an NBC Bay Area report on May 4, 2017, threatening to deport Asian and Latino men. The statements had allegedly been filmed earlier in the year.

“Wait ’til we get [immigration services] involved in here, too, it’s going to be awesome. We’re going to ship everybody back to their own country,” Fry said in the video.

The Asian Law Caucus and other immigrant advocacy groups called for Fry to be fired after the video surfaced, and police said they were launching an internal affairs investigation.

Saira Hussain, a staff attorney with the Asian Law Caucus, said the complaint was filed because Fry’s actions violated San Francisco’s city sanctuary city policies, which prohibit officers from enforcing immigration laws and limit their ability to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

Hussain said the issue was particularly important given the degree of scrutiny the sanctuary policies have received under the Trump administration.

“Many immigrants are afraid to come forward if they are the victim of a crime or to feel that they are able to have any relationship with law enforcement, and that is even more undermined when officers are making threats of deportation,” Hussain said. “We thought it was important to uphold our sanctuary city policy to make sure that this never happens again.”

Chan said in her experience it could be difficult to get a complaint of biased policing upheld by the department and the DPA, even when the complainant was credible and consistent, but the video was “crucial” in Fry’s case.

Advocates had hoped to see the case forwarded to the Police Commission or considered for disciplinary action including firing, but police say Fry left the department on Jan. 14 of this year.

Hussain said her group had been unable to contact the men being threatened in the video, but she has heard complaints of similar behavior from others in the past. Past scandals in the department, including racist text messages and the news on Tuesday that a Muslim officer had suffered racist attacks and retaliation from his fellow officers, lead her to believe the incident involving Fry is part of a larger problem.

“I do not think it’s an isolated incident. I think it’s a systemic issue in the department,” Hussain said.

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