Another Racism Scandal Hits SFPD

An officer of Afghan descent claims he’s been called racist names and has witnessed fellow officers sympathize with the white-nationalist movement.

An SFPD officer who asked not to be identified reads a statement regarding allegations of racism and harassment by other officers against him while seated in the office of Public Defender Jeff Adachi on April 10, 2018. (Kevin N. Hume)

It’s been nearly two years since the scandal of cops exchanging racist texts rocked the San Francisco Police Department, but new charges have propelled the troubled force back into the spotlight. On Tuesday, an anonymous police officer’s claims of repeated racism and homophobia among his colleagues went public.

Public Defender Jeff Adachi announced the allegations, although he has committed to keeping the identity of the officer secret to protect him. The officer, who joined the force in June 2016, released a long laundry list of incidents detailing the bigoted behavior of his colleagues. If true, they reflect poorly on a police department that the United States Departments of Justice has previously targeted for reform over its biases and use of force.

The incidents are numerous and appear carefully documented. The officer, who is of Afghan background, claims was accused by his colleagues of being a terrorist and was joking accused of carrying bombs, RPGs, and grenades.

Graffiti on his locker in August 2017 allegedly read “tick-tick,” referencing an earlier comment made by an officer who claimed he saw wires coming out of the victim’s backpack. Three months later, a photo appeared on the same locker, with an image of the ISIS flag and the phrase “go back” scrawled across it.

The officer also claims a colleague called him a  “sand n—–,” and that a sergeant asked him if he knew any “towelheads.”

This pattern of behavior also offers an uncomfortable look at the banter that may have occurred between local police officers. One officer voiced support for President Donald Trump’s so-called Muslim ban, saying, “[If] I see a Black person behind the wheel of a vehicle, I’ll pull the car over and figure out probable cause later.” That same officer also referred to a Black person as a “monkey.”

The officer also overheard several officers discussing their support for the white-nationalist movement, saying it had been wrongly covered by the media.

Finally, the word “f-ggot” was allegedly thrown around frequently, and officers were spotted muting their body-worn cameras to make comments at crime scenes. In one case, he says he witnessed a rape victim’s accusation be dismissed because she was a sex worker.

At Tuesday’s press conference, Adachi blasted the police force and the collective pressure to keep officers silent in the face of harmful prejudice.

“In order to eliminate racism in the ranks, police culture must rid itself of its ‘no snitching’ ethos. Fear of speaking out due to retaliation has been an enormous barrier to real reform in San Francisco,” Adachi said.

This anonymous police officer has now joined the ranks of several other whistleblowers who’ve stepped up in the past three years to expose SFPD officers’ bad behavior. Late last year, Joel Babbs, who’s African American, says he received months of retaliation from the department when he accused officers of racism, which included him being charged with fraud and falsifying a police report.

In January, former police officer Patricia Burley was awarded $100,000 from the city after she claimed she was forced to retire after exposing a colleague’s criminal conduct.

Back in 2015, the city also settled a suit with former internal affairs attorney Kelly O’Haire, who faced threats in the wake of a discipline case she handled against then-Chief Greg Suhr. She was awarded $725,000.

And finally, Lt. Yulanda Williams, current head of the Black Officers Association, was denounced by the San Francisco Police Officers Association when she went public over racist texts sent to her by fellow officers.

UPDATE 5 p.m.: SFPD released a statement Tuesday afternoon disclosing that they were made aware of the allegations in November 2017, and launched three separate investigations. “We are committed to providing just, transparent, unbiased and responsive policing and will continue to build and maintain trust with the communities we serve,” they said.

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