San Francisco police officers who sent racist and homophobic text messages will not be subject to any disciplinary actions by the police department, a judge decided Monday.
San Francisco Superior Court Judge Ernest H. Goldsmith determined the police department waited too long to punish the officers involved, after it discovered the messages in 2012. After hearing arguments from attorneys on both sides, Goldsmith on Monday upheld the tentative decision he made in the case Friday.
Goldsmith, in making his decision, said the one-year statute of limitations period for investigating officer misconduct is to protect the rights of police officers and to ensure the public’s safety,
The officers were brought up on disciplinary charges earlier this year after the racist text messages were revealed during a police corruption case in federal court. Since then, Officer Rain Daugherty argued on behalf of himself and some nine other unnamed officers that The City failed to file charges when the texts were first discovered years ago.
Alison Berry Wilkinson, the attorney representing the officers in the suit, agreed with the judge’s finding, saying he saw The City had “blundered.”
Wilkinson said the judge “certainly made the right ruling” as a matter of law. “[The City] failed to be responsible to the public by not investigating these texts as soon as they became aware of them,” Wilkinson said.
San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon in a statement said the officers escaped discipline due to a “massive breakdown” in the police department’s process.
“What’s worse, some were allowed to continue in civilian contact positions despite knowledge of the text messages, thereby putting thousands of cases in jeopardy,” Gascon said. “The fact that San Francisco is forced to retain police officers that demonstrated explicit racism will have ramifications for the reputation of the department, the fair administration of justice, and the trust of the community SFPD serves.”
Max Szabo, spokesperson for the District Attorney’s Office, sent out a tweet on Monday that said 13 cases have been dismissed by the DA’s office in the wake of the text scandal.
The scandal emerged in a March filing in federal court in the case of former Sgt. Ian Furminger. Goldsmith said the department failed twice in its duty to begin disciplinary proceedings within the statute of limitations. First, when the text messages were internally revealed during the federal investigation and then when that investigation was completed.
The text messages were first handed over to the department’s criminal internal affairs division in 2012, but the department argued that no disciplinary charges were filed because of the ongoing corruption investigation and subsequent trial of former Sgt. Ian Furminger.