Public defender releases racial justice recommendations, finds up to 1,000 cases may be tainted by bigoted officers

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by Tamara Aparton

At a press conference Monday about the police texts, Public Defender Jeff Adachi listens as former San Francisco Youth Commissioner De’Anthony Jones describes an incident in which he ended a police encounter by offering to shake the officer’s hand, but the officer refused. – Photo: Larry Roberts
At a press conference Monday about the police texts, Public Defender Jeff Adachi listens as former San Francisco Youth Commissioner De’Anthony Jones describes an incident in which he ended a police encounter by offering to shake the officer’s hand, but the officer refused. – Photo: Larry Roberts

San Francisco – An estimated 1,000 criminal cases will be reviewed following revelations that San Francisco police officers regularly shared racist and homophobic views in text messages, San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi announced today.

The Public Defender today also released a 10-point plan to increase police transparency and safeguard citizens against racial bias.

Adachi said he will work with San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón to review criminal cases over the past 10 years that may have been tainted by former sergeant Ian Furminger and four current officers, identified in the press as Michael Robison, Noel Schwab, Rain Dougherty and Michael Celis. The officers sent epithet-laden text messages denigrating Blacks, gays, Filipinos and Mexicans.

The texts were revealed in a court filing by prosecutors in Furminger’s federal corruption case. Furminger was convicted in December of robbing drug suspects.

“The messages make clear the utter contempt these officers had for the people they were sworn to protect. You can’t simply set aside this kind of extreme bias when you go to work. It affected who they chose to detain, search and arrest. It affected which witnesses or crime victims they chose to believe,” Adachi said.

The Public Defender’s Racial Justice Committee today also released a 10-point plan for police reform. Its key recommendations include increased training on implicit bias; an annual review for supervising officers that screens for racial bias, excessive force, unlawful search and false reports; and an increased effort to assign positions in Black and Brown communities to officers who live in the neighborhoods.

The Racial Justice Committee was formed in 2013. It partners with the University of Pennsylvania’s Quattone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice to track and remedy racial disparities in San Francisco’s criminal justice system.

Co-chairs Christopher Hite and Rebecca Young said the committee worked on the 10-point plan over the past year. Committee members hope the document will serve as a starting point for the adoption of meaningful reforms.

“The messages make clear the utter contempt these officers had for the people they were sworn to protect. You can’t simply set aside this kind of extreme bias when you go to work. It affected who they chose to detain, search and arrest. It affected which witnesses or crime victims they chose to believe,” Adachi said.

San Francisco youth who have faced police bias firsthand also spoke at today’s press conference. Nico Bremond, a USF graduate and youth mentor in the Western Addition, described calling police for help after his apartment was robbed, only to be accused of selling drugs. Bremond, who is Latino and African American, said he regularly feels police regard him suspiciously when he is living a lawful life.

Former San Francisco Youth Commissioner De’Anthony Jones, who is African American, described an incident in which he ended a police encounter by offering to shake the officer’s hand. The officer refused, he said. Reading the text messages “hurt me to my soul,” the Sacramento State University graduate said.

“We need to attract more young men and women of color to the police department, but the kind of hatred displayed in these text messages makes that mission difficult,” he said.

Jeff Adachi has used the Public Defender’s Office not only to defend his clients but to encourage and strengthen them and their families and communities. With the majority of his clients coming from Black neighborhoods, Adachi has been City Hall’s best friend to their residents – expunging records so people can work, giving away thousands of backpacks and holding book and science fairs every year for the children, many with incarcerated parents, and constantly enlightening the public and lobbying lawmakers about making justice real. Here he speaks to graduates of Drug Court.
Jeff Adachi has used the Public Defender’s Office not only to defend his clients but to encourage and strengthen them and their families and communities. With the majority of his clients coming from Black neighborhoods, Adachi has been City Hall’s best friend to their residents – expunging records so people can work, giving away thousands of backpacks and holding book and science fairs every year for the children, many with incarcerated parents, and constantly enlightening the public and lobbying lawmakers about making justice real. Here he speaks to graduates of Drug Court.

Racial Justice Committee Plan for Police Reform

1. Officers must have a minimum 24 hours of training on implicit bias and its effects, including perspectives of people of color unlawfully detained while walking or driving. Classes must include the impact of implicit bias on officer decision-making in the field. Additionally, officers must participate in periodic cultural competency training and education throughout their career.

2. All Field Training Officers’ performance must be reviewed annually for any documented history of racial bias, excessive force, unlawful search and seizure and false reports, to determine if they are fit to train other officers.

3. The Police Department must make every effort to assign positions in Black and Brown communities to those officers who live in the communities they are patrolling. The City should provide financial incentives to officers who choose to live in the communities they are policing.

4. All officers, including plainclothes, shall be equipped with body cameras, which must be on and operating while the officer is on duty. A willful failure to turn on the equipment shall subject the officer to disciplinary action. Police officer contact with civilians which is not recorded may be deemed unreasonable by the courts and/or the Office of Citizen Complaints.

5. Whenever a shooting of a civilian by a police officer occurs, an independent investigation shall be conducted by an agency outside the SF Police Department and the SF District Attorney’s Office. Prosecutions of officer-involved shootings shall proceed by way of complaint rather than by grand jury indictment. The Police Department must maintain “use of force” logs to document each instance in which a police officer draws and discharges a firearm whether or not it results in injury. These logs must be made publicly accessible on a reasonable basis, not less than quarterly.

6. A youth representative shall be appointed to the San Francisco Police Commission.

7. Officers shall not detain, search or arrest children at school in the absence of an imminent threat of danger. In the absence of such a threat, the officer’s conduct may be deemed unreasonable by the courts and/or the Office of Citizen Complaints.

8. Officers shall not detain, search or arrest children under 16 in the absence of an imminent threat of danger without having a parent or guardian present. Where such threat has not been established, the officer’s actions may be deemed unreasonable by the courts and/or the Office of Citizen Complaints.

9. Officers who encounter individuals exhibiting mental health issues or in psychiatric crisis – unless there is an imminent threat of danger – must contact a supervisor or a member of the department’s Crisis Intervention Unit before using deadly force or force that may result in serious injury.

10. SFPD will agree to provide statistics in the form of quarterly reports to the mayor and the Board of Supervisors on:

  • The number of traffic stops, detentions and stop and frisks of African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, Native Americans and Caucasians;
  • Traffic stops, detentions and stop and frisks of African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, Native Americans and Caucasians which did not result in a citation or arrest;
  • Arrests for resisting arrest or threatening an executive officer (PC 69) and battery on a police officer (PC 243(c) for African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, Native Americans and Caucasians.

The report of each incident shall include the date of police-citizen contact, the ethnicity of the arrestee and the officer(s), the location of the police contact, whether the arrest resulted in the filing of a traffic or criminal complaint and, if so, charges alleged by the officer.

Tamara Barak Aparton, communications and policy assistant in the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office, can be reached at Tamara.Aparton@sfgov.org.

 

4 COMMENTS

  1. You do know the Robison who put a gun under the chin of a guy and said a racial slur is openly gay don't you? He has been for 23 yrs.
    And Schwab is a racial minority.

    this is going to backfire.
    private convos have nothing to do with the job.

    • You must be a police officer. Stop making excuses for these less than honorable POSs. Nobody cares if Robison is gay – that makes his silly comments even worse. And schwab "racial minority" status just makes him look like an Uncle Tom. They have no place on any police force anywhere.

  2. There are a lot of people in this city who shouldn't be paid to interact with People of Color!!! San Francisco has Jeff Adachi fighting in the area of Criminal Justice. Who is FIGHTING for US when it comes to the same type of people as these officers in jobs: as teachers, in state and county jobs where we go to attain Economic Justice??? This City which has and continues to practice GENTRIFICATION!!! A tool of This Classist And Racist Nation!!!

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