San Francisco’s district attorney said Thursday that a team of three retired judges will review over 3,000 criminal cases, related to 14 police department officers, who allegedly sent racist and anti-gay text messages. The judges will investigate if these biases influenced the arrests made by the officers, leading to wrongful convictions.
The judges, who will not be paid for the review, are -- Cruz Reynoso, California Supreme Court justice; Dickran Tevrizian, a retired federal court judge; and LaDoris Cordell, a former Superior Court judge. Some of the text messages, in question, discussed lynching African-Americans and proposed they “should be spayed,” the New York Times reported. The messages also contained derogatory comments about homosexuals, Mexicans and Filipinos, who comprise a significant part of the city’s population. No deadline has been set for the completion of the review.
The judges will investigate if there is a "deeper culture of bias at the SFPD (San Francisco Police Department), and what the impact of such bias may be on prosecutions made by the District Attorney's Office," San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón said at a news conference, according to NBC News, adding: "If just one individual was wrongly imprisoned because of bias on the part of these officers — that's one too many."
The latest review is an extension of the investigation that began against former San Francisco police officer Ian Furminger, who has been ordered a jail term of 41 months on corruption-related charges. A federal court filing in the March case had led to prosecutors finding several inapt messages that were sent and received by more officers, NBC News reported. The review further expands the ongoing investigation into faulty testing at a crime lab, and allegations that the city’s Sheriff’s deputies forced inmates of the county jail to fight in "gladiator-style" while those in authority placed bets on the outcome.
The review comes at a time when there have been several protests in the past few months over the police shootings of unarmed African-Americans. Gascón reportedly said that such instances have led to a fall of public confidence in his office and in the local criminal justice system.
“In the last few months, we have seen city after city where police use of force or other police activity is coming to the light and indicating that racial animosity and other types of biases play a significant role,” Gascón said, according to the New York Times, adding: “I think at one point we felt we would be immune from that type of activity.”
The cases that will be reviewed date back to almost 10 years and Gascón accepted that some cases of misconduct took place under his watch, the Los Angeles Times reported. Gascón said he felt “terrible” about it and hopes the panel will complete the review by end of the year.
Rev. Amos Brown, a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said, according to the Los Angeles Times, that the population of African-Americans in the city of San Francisco is only about 5 percent. However, they make up for nearly 70 percent of the population in San Francisco’s juvenile hall.
“This is a moral issue,” Brown reportedly said at the news conference, adding: “Everybody is guilty, whether Republican or Democrat, whether judge, probation officer or police officer.”