Last year six San Francisco Police Department officers were found guilty on charges of corruption by a federal court. The scandal that proceeded the hearings rocked the entire community, as the charges included behavior that sounded like something from a Quentin Tarantino movie. Now federal prosecutors are attempting to prevent Ian Furminger’s appeals process with allegations that the convicted officer and four others included bigoted speech in their official communications.
“Do you celebrate Qaunza at your school? Yeah we burn the cross on the field. Then we celebrate Whitemas.”
“20,000 bees are in Vacaville near school, but they are not dangerous like black people.”
San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr has struggled with many such incidences in recent years. And although it sometimes appears that he genuinely wishes to clean up his force, years of corruption and misconduct still plague his force.
“It makes me sick to my stomach to even have these guys around.” says SFPD Chief Greg Suhr.
“My expectation is the police commission will share my desire to terminate these people from the police department and act upon it. If you have character that is incompatible with that of a police officer what’s expected of a police officer then you shouldn’t be a police officer.”
All of the officers involved have been on the force for more than a decade and a half, illustrating how entrenched the problem is. The four officers are now in non-public positions and may lose their jobs. Three of the four have been investigated for past incidences and only the fourth has publicly admitted and apologized for the incidence. A lawyer for two of the other officers has attempted to downplay the charges by suggesting the behavior was normative and acceptable.
“Not many of us would want all of our texts published and to have our entire career judged by our worst comments.” said their attorney, who called the charges, ‘unfortunate, at the very least.’
Whenever it suits it, the legal system is happy to admit that cops are just people like you and I. However, it applies a double standard every single day as prosecutors and judges routinely side with officers whose infallibility is never questioned when used as evidence against others. It is quite true that we all have shared tasteless jokes with our friends, family and co-workers. However, most jobs do not require the kind of objectivity necessitated by positions of authority. For those tasked with keeping the peace amongst diverse populations, a culture of acceptance, understanding and tolerance are required, AT THE VERY LEAST.
As Cop Block writers are often reminded, we have freedom of speech, but not freedom from consequences. Hatred and bigotry are not values that can be tolerated at any level within our institutions. Equality cannot survive when those tasked with protecting it are themselves prone to ideologies and speech, which hold some individuals as lesser than others by virtue of an arbitrary quality like gender, race or sexual orientation. Although racism or other forms of prejudice are not the only cause or effect of police corruption and misconduct, they have become the most visible. While it is easy to root out obvious examples of such institutionalized bigotry, most of it occurs at a constant subconscious level, which is made possible by police agencies that allow individuals and cultures of hatred.
Is this even possible? Can we expose every bit of intolerance within our system or would it crumble without it? My aim is to do the former in hopes that it reveals the necessity of the latter. Authority cannot survive on
equality, acceptance and tolerance. The basis of the superiority of those in charge crumbles when they do not believe themselves to be manifestly destined to rule over their ‘lessers’. To be sure, I wish to distinguish between leadership and authority. Leadership is what we at Cop Block do every day; while authoritarianism is leadership by means of aggression. Equals have no inferiority complex or insecurities that necessitate the overcompensation of aggression against one another.
What do you think- Is it possible to foster peace, harmony and tolerance through aggression, or are police and other institutions of the state the greatest danger to human individuals, communities and civilization?
A published report has indicated that the SFPD is also investigating at least 10 other officers in a scandal that continues to unfold. The review, which began with four officers, may encompass over 1,000 old prosecution cases going back 10 years. The investigation is still in it’s early stages and no new charges have been filed, nor have there been any new suspensions or firings. We will keep you updated as the story unfolds.