Two San Francisco police officers were slapped with 360-day suspensions for their part in a series of videos assailed as racist, sexist and homophobic by former Mayor Gavin Newsom and police Chief Heather Fong.
More than a dozen officers who took part in the videos were disciplined after Newsom made some of the videos public on Dec. 7, 2005. What became widely known as “Videogate” has already resulted in the police officer that produced the videos, Andrew Cohen, quitting the force.
Only two other officers were recommended for termination, Wendy Hurley and James Lewis. They found out in a heated Police Commission hearing Wednesday night that they would be disciplined just short of termination.
The two officers acted out several skits in the videos including one in which Hurley, who is white, hands a watermelon to Lewis, who is black.
“This video, like the others, summarizes the reason why not one, not two, but three consecutive chiefs of police have all asked you to terminate Ms. Hurley,” Police Department lawyer John Alden said.
Alden went on to say that the behavior should not have been financed by taxpayer funds, and that Hurley had not expressed regret at being in the videos.
Hurley’s attorney, Waukeen McCoy, defended the videos as comedy skits meant for the Bayview Police Station’s retiring captain, a common practice among officers in the department. Hurley had already been suspended, and she had been working behind a desk for five years, he added.
After the commission handed down the suspension, McCoy pledged to appeal the disciplinary decision in Superior Court.
The “Videogate” scandal is often mentioned in the same breath as another department scandal in which two off-duty officers were accused of beating a man over a bag of fajitas, commonly referred to as “Fajitagate,” said Police Commission Vice President Joe Marshall.
“I think that we just want to say that the damage that these cases have done overall both to the department and the image of The City of San Francisco should not be taken lightly,” Marshall said.