Why Resignations of Racist Police Officers in San Francisco, Florida, and Ferguson Are Not Enough

By Shaun King

Over the past few months, stories about racist police officers could sincerely make one question whether or not it is 1955 instead of 2015.

The police captain, a sergeant, and the lead court clerk in Ferguson exchanged text messages calling President Obama a chimpanzee and joking that black women getting abortions should get bonuses from Crimestoppers.

Three law enforcement officers in Florida were found to be members of the KKK and were arrested for a murderous bomb plot to kill a black prisoner.

Four completely different Ft. Lauderdale police officers were just exposed for sending each other racist text messages in which they joked about "killing niggers" and filmed a sympathetic KKK video.

Not to be outdone, eight police officers in San Francisco, California, a bastion of liberal America, were found to have sent racist text messages to one another—including a high-ranking captain of the department:

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.”

Simply allowing racist police officers to resign and move on is not enough. When officers resign, they can literally pack up and move to the next town or state over and begin a brand-new career in a new police department. Resignations, in other words, don't cure racism. These officers need to be banned from ever serving in law enforcement again. They don't deserve their pensions. Every previous case they've been involved in needs to be re-examined.

In San Francisco, doubts are already being cast on previous cases involving these officers:

District Attorney George Gascón said his office is reviewing cases handled by the officers in the past 10 years to determine if racial bias could have played a role in any outcomes. Public Defender Jeff Adachi, whose office is also reviewing these cases, said he expects more than 1,000 cases.

Adachi on Friday called Suhr’s move to fire the officers “a step in the right direction, and I strongly encourage the Police Commission to follow suit.”

“The characterization of these hateful statements as innocent banter is dead wrong,” Adachi said. “This casual dehumanization leads to real life suffering and injustice. It foments a toxic environment in which citizens fear and distrust the police, brutality reigns, and good officers are less effective.”

It is absolutely impossible for officers to be so blatantly and disturbingly racist and for them to have administered justice in a way that racism played no role whatsoever. The numbers in San Francisco clearly bear that out:

Citing SFPD traffic stop data from 2013, Adachi said African-Americans are three times likelier to be pulled over in San Francisco than white people are. In general, Adachi said African-Americans were seven times more likely to be arrested than white people, according to state Department of Justice data. A 2012 study found African-Americans are arrested for felony drug possession in San Francisco at a rate 19 times higher than other races in San Francisco.

While I have real doubts that racism can be cured by workshops and training, it needs to be abundantly clear for police officers that racism—be it the private or public form—has no place in the justice system. These text messages and investigations in Florida, Ferguson, and San Francisco are revealing that the ugliest forms of racism that so many people thought died generations ago, is actually alive and well. The question now is what will be done about it.