Bigoted Texts ‘Disgraced’ SFPD, Chief Says, Vowing Rapid Action

Jaxon Van Derbeken, San Francisco Chronicle, March 16, 2015

The four San Francisco police officers under investigation for sending racist and homophobic text messages have all been on the force for more than a decade, and at least two have faced disciplinary action in the past, The Chronicle has learned.

San Francisco police Chief Greg Suhr said Saturday that he could not confirm the officers’ identities under state law, but stressed that he will seek to fire those responsible for the messages. “It makes me sick to my stomach to even have these guys around,” he said.

The four officers–identified by multiple sources with knowledge of the matter as Michael Robison, Noel Schwab, Rain Daugherty and Michael Celis–were transferred to non-public-contact positions in the department last month. The action came soon after the federal authorities in turned over messages in 2011 and 2012 sent to and from former SFPD Sgt. Ian Furminger, who was recently convicted in federal court on corruption charges.

The racially charged and homophobic texts came to light in a filing in federal court Friday by prosecutors seeking to keep Furminger in custody as he appeals his conviction and 40-month sentence on federal corruption charges.


The oldest of the officers under investigation is Schwab, 49, a 16-year veteran who worked at Southern Station until being transferred by the chief to the department’s communications division. {snip}


Robison, 46, a 23-year veteran, had been working in the Special Victims Unit when he was transferred to unspecified duties at the SFPD Mounted Unit at Golden Gate Park.

The latest investigation is not the first time Robison has been accused of using a racial epithet. Three years after he joined the force, Robison faced internal misconduct charges related to an incident in which he was accused of placing a loaded firearm under the chin of a suspect and calling him a racial slur, department documents show. However, the allegation of neglect of duty for not being truthful about the incident was not sustained by the Police Commission and was dismissed, records show.

Celis, 47, a 16-year veteran, has been in trouble in the past. In 2004, he was charged with four counts of misconduct stemming from an incident in which he was accused of flashing his badge and offering a $100 bribe to try to get into his estranged wife’s Burlingame hotel room.


Tony Brass, an attorney who represents Robison and Chelis, called the text messages “unfortunate, to say the least.”

“No one is suggesting that bigotry and racism in texts are acceptable,” Brass said in an e-mail. “However, these were texts from one private phone to another, intended for an audience of one person. Not many of us would want all of our texts published and to have our entire career judged by our worst comments.”


Prosecutors said the texts are proof that Furminger, 48, is a “virulent” racist and homophobe. They were sent between October 2011 and June 2012 and undermine what they called Furminger’s “fantasy that he is a person of character.”

In one exchange with an unnamed officer in May 2012, Furimnger asked whether he should be worried that the black husband of one of his then-wife’s friends had come over to his home.

The officer responded, “Get ur pocket gun. Keep it available in case the monkey returns to his roots. Its (sic) not against the law to put an animal down.”

“Well said!” Furminger replied, according to the prosecutors’ court filing. “You may have to kill the half-breeds too,’’ the unnamed officer replied, adding: “Don’t worry. Their (sic) an abomination of nature anyway.”

“All n— must f— hang,” another unidentified officer texted to Furminger in an unrelated exchange. In another, one of the officers texted “White power” to Furminger, who himself repeats the phrase to another officer in a text.

Furminger gave his own address in a text to a civilian along with the description: “White power family.”

Suhr said he acted as soon as the FBI turned over the text messages to the department, reassigning the officers last month. One officer, he confirmed, was already on personal leave.

He hopes the investigation will be finished within 30 days.

“This investigation is our No. 1 priority right now,” the chief said. “As soon as the investigation is completed, if these statements are what it appears,” Suhr added, he would immediately send the case to the Police Commission and “seek nothing less than termination for conduct and character incompatible with being a police officer.”


Public Defender Jeff Adachi said Saturday that the department should disclose the histories and confirm the names of the officers because the newly revealed allegations cast doubt on their testimony in prior cases.

“We have a right to this information. It may affect both current and past cases,” he said. “This is hugely problematic–if these officers were involved in active investigations in the last 2½ years, it is relevant and must be disclosed.”


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