Greetings charged-up readers!
Trouble in Black Paradise barrels right along and numbs the nation.
A highly anticipated court ruling here fooled no one, but definitely exacerbates chilling implications for San Francisco’s “cop culture.”
The case concerning racist and homophobic emails that about 10 officers fought was thrown out on Monday, December 21, by Superior Court Judge Ernest H. Goldsmith. The judge sided with defense attorneys, stating officials let the one year statute of limitations (to investigate cop misconduct) run out before initiating disciplinary action.
Now, all the defendants are totally off the hook—receiving no punishment and keeping their jobs (court costs likely paid for by The City).
More disturbing is that the majority still remain anonymous.
As I reported earlier the vile emails surfaced due to subpoenas within a separate corruption investigation by feds, centered on former Sgt. Ian Furminger and former Officer Edmond Robles (who were convicted in that case).
Fallout from the emails hit swift motion as two implicated cops had immediately resigned: Noel Schwab and openly gay Michael Robison (a rising “white male” Castro celebrity).
Of some 14 other officers implicated Police Chief Greg Suhr recommended a captain, sergeant and 6 others be fired; 13 cases tied to officers were dismissed by the DA; over 3,000 cases are slated for review; and DA George Gascon set-up an independent “Blue Ribbon Panel” of retired judges to investigate multiple misconduct charges.
But defendant Officer Rain Daugherty threw a wrench in Suhr’s attempt to discipline. Arguing on behalf of himself (and about 9 other “unnamed” officers) he proved a key element: the “date” emails surfaced gaining actual official SF knowledge set the limitations period, showing police officials knew about the damning items all along—but did nothing.
Police officials had argued they delayed disciplinary action because the fed case was still active and held priority, therefore the statute of limitations was invalidated. Goldsmith’s ruling not only rejected this premise, but said a whole lot more.
An SF Examiner report shows comments by major players in this case combine to illustrate the corrosive operations barreling right along within SF’s law enforcement agency. One of course, defense attorney Alison Berry Wilkinson, agreed with the ruling (and the notion of at least ineptness) stating The City had “blundered.”
Judge Goldsmith himself slammed it home saying the department failed “twice” to take action within the actual limitations period: when the texts first surfaced “internally” during the fed’s investigation and after that case had “closed.”
The revelation is compelling and deserves a closer look:
SF police officials actually got hold of the texts in 2012. It wasn’t until early 2015 that the public was informed. Officers were only investigated and charged for discipline after those dastardly exchanges finally hit public airwaves—3 years later.
Suddenly we have another situation similar to Chicago’s, where a cop’s murder charges were filed only after a video there surfaced—over a year later (no statute of limitations in Illinois for murder).
DA Gascon’s input was eye-opening indeed, calling it a “massive breakdown” in the police department’s process:
“What’s worse, some were allowed to continue in civilian contact positions despite knowledge of the text messages, thereby putting thousands of cases in jeopardy.” he said, then continued:
“The fact that San Francisco is forced to retain police officers that demonstrated explicit racism will have ramifications for the reputation of the department, the fair administration of justice and the trust of the community SFPD serves.”
Police Chief Suhr’s initial push for disciplinary charges did give the appearance he genuinely worked towards an overhaul. But developments regarding another prong of investigation resulting from a series of misconduct scandals, including this very case, seem to put that in question.
Before Judge Goldsmith’s final decision here Gascon’s “Blue Ribbon Panel” (officially the Blue Ribbon Panel on Transparency, Fairness and Accountability in Law Enforcement) hit a major snag. It apparently tried to obtain personnel files and cop’s testimony in the racist text case.
Both Suhr and the contentious Police Officer’s Association slammed the door on that one. Each sent letters to the Panel questioning their “authority” to subpoena such items.
The Panel’s head Anand Subramanian admitted they had no such authority, but hoped they’d get volunteers (from the department and law enforcement community) to reveal possible biases and solutions themselves.
I say good luck with that one!
The Panel’s scope at least was better clarified: 8 law firms are giving their pro bono time; they’re scrutinizing stops, searches and arrests, personnel practices, culture, internal discipline, shootings and use of force, crime clearance and data, plus external oversight.
But, another note intensifies doubt about an overhaul’s genuineness:
Subramanian works through Policylink (a research and action network) yet, had to fund the Panel through his own separately sought grant—SF Mayor Ed Lee had actually refused Gascon’s request for funding.
Such deterring actions by SF’s top brass—from both the Mayor and Chief—lean heavily toward supporting and covering up “corrupt culture,” especially in light of video showing Mario Woods’ recent police killing (and Lee’s instant backing of police actions).
I, like Judge Goldsmith, do not believe Suhr felt legally restrained from disciplining those officers because of the pending fed investigation—which the judge revealed had ended within the limitations period.
It appears outraged critics have solid ground in calling for not only Suhr’s resignation, but someone else’s (who must have known over a 3 year period about those emails, but has not been called on to resign himself): newly reelected Mayor Ed Lee.
So here, besides the rap beaters retaining their jobs, what happens now? Do ex cops Noel Schwab and openly gay Michael Robison (who immediately resigned) reclaim theirs as well? And what now for the “Blue Ribbon Panel” since a key investigated case has now dissolved?
While some national observers do notice this outcome (and its implications for rancid “cop culture”) I’ll not expect CNN to interrupt its ad nauseam free publicity coverage of Trump-for-Trump, to bring this major U.S. city into scope.
2016 looks to be a long year of taking it to the streets, maybe not with very many Black preachers in tow, but undoubtedly there’ll be plenty of cause for everyone else to make some “noise.”