Issue:  Vol. 45 / No. 17 / 23 April 2015
 

SF begins plans for U.S. Supreme Court marriage announcement in June

National Center for Lesbian Rights Executive Director Kate Kendell and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee. Photo: Seth Hemmelgarn

National Center for Lesbian Rights Executive Director Kate Kendell and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee. Photo: Seth Hemmelgarn

San Francisco city officials and LGBT community leaders are planning a celebration at City Hall in anticipation of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June that same-sex marriages should be legal in all 50 states.

Mayor Ed Lee; his chief of staff, Steve Kawa; National Center for Lesbian Rights Executive Director Kate Kendell; and many others seemed optimistic marriage equality advocates will be victorious as they met in the mayor’s conference room today (Thursday, April 23).

The Supreme Court justices are set to hear oral arguments Tuesday, April 28 in the consolidated marriage case from the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Marriage is already legal in California and 36 other states, along with the District of Columbia.

The court is expected to announce its ruling in June. Those gathered at City Hall today expressed hope that the news would come before the city’s LGBT Pride parade and celebration, which is set for June 27-28.

Suggestions for the day of the court’s announcement included displaying flags from all 50 states and a light show in Civic Center Plaza that night.

Kendell, who’s organization is representing plaintiffs in the case before the Supreme Court, backed the idea of encouraging people to come to City Hall “to celebrate and to commit to finishing the job.”

She echoed comments made by Lee, who said even if the court rules in favor of marriage equality, that “doesn’t mean the end of discrimination,” and “we’ve got to move forward on society accepting this.”

“We’re going to have a backlash,” Kendell said. For many people who are poor, transgender, black, and other LGBTs, “this is not going to help you,” and it’s important to have speakers at the event to “make clear” that “we’re not leaving anyone behind.”

Kawa noted one of the main challenges planners face.

“Planning for a date that doesn’t exist yet is a difficult thing,” he said. He added that it’s important to get police involved to ensure safety at whatever event is planned.

But he also indicated he’s confident the mayor’s office will have plenty of help.

“Now you’re being volunteered to help us,” Kawa told the others present, who also included gay Supervisor David Campos, LGBT Pride Celebration Committee Executive Director George Ridgely, and Rebecca Prozan, who’s a lesbian and a former top aide to District Attorney George Gascon who now serves as Google’s public policy and government relations manager.

“We have your names, we have our emails, and we have your phone numbers,” Kawa quipped.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, April 23, 2015 @ 4:06 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


Planning body supports Castro district zoning change for office-type businesses

The construction of new buildings along upper Market Street, like Linea seen here, prompted calls for the zoning change.

The construction of new buildings along upper Market Street, like Linea seen here, prompted calls for the zoning change.

Legislation meant to bring stronger public scrutiny of office-type uses taking over ground floor retail spaces in San Francisco’s gay Castro district and along Noe Valley’s commercial corridor sailed through the city’s planning commission today.

The commission voted 5-0 to recommend that the Board of Supervisors adopt the zoning change. The supervisors are expected to pass it once it is taken up at the committee level in the coming months.

Gay District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener, who represents both neighborhoods at City Hall, introduced the legislation in order to make permanent the interim zoning rule the city adopted along upper Market Street between Octavia Boulevard and Castro Street requiring office-type uses, such as banks and title companies, to seek conditional use permits if leasing sidewalk-fronting storefronts.

The interim rule was put in place in the summer of 2013 in response to a slew of new mixed-use buildings opening along the busy thoroughfare that combined new housing over retail spaces. Castro residents voiced concerns that banks and real estate firms would rush in and crowd out more traditional retailers, leaving dead zones at night and on weekends when they were closed.

With similar concerns raised about the 400 and 500 blocks of Castro Street, as well as 24th Street between Diamond and Chattanooga, Wiener decided to also extend the zoning rule to those commercial corridors.

At the hearing this afternoon (Thursday, April 23) Wiener aide Andres Power told the commissioners the legislation is about “ensuring our retail corridors remain active.”

Under the new rules, business or professional services wanting to open in a ground floor space on the two blocks of Castro Street, as well as several blocks on 18th Street, would need to seek a permit from the planning commission.

On upper Market Street west of Octavia, limited financial services and business or professional services would need authorization to move into a first story space.

In Noe Valley medical services, business or professional services would need planning commission approval to open in a ground floor retail space, while such uses would be principally permitted in second story spaces.

The planning commissioners recommended that the supervisors also allow them in third story spaces rather than require such businesses to seek conditional use authorization, as the legislation as written currently requires.

“This is good legislation,” said commissioner Rich Hillis, who noted such non-retail uses “tend to be large and dead on the street.”

Hillis suggested that the rule “should be expanded elsewhere” in the city to other commercial corridors.

Commissioner Michael Antonini agreed that the legislation will help “enliven the street rather than having business professionals close at 5 p.m. and have a bunch of dead storefronts here.”

— Matthew S. Bajko, @ 3:32 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


‘Pink Party’ new name for Castro street party in June

Pink Saturday drew a crowd in 2011, with the illuminated pink triangle on Twin Peaks in the background. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland

Pink Saturday drew a crowd in 2011, with the illuminated pink triangle on Twin Peaks in the background. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland

The Castro street festival formerly known as “Pink Saturday” will be called “Pink Party” this year, a planner of the pre-Pride parade celebration told the Bay Area Reporter this morning (Thursday, April 23).

“In a way, it comes up from the community,” organizer Ruth McFarlane said. “It’s the name everybody uses if they don’t say, ‘Pink Saturday.’”

McFarlane is the programs director for San Francisco’s LGBT Community Center. The center was brought in to plan the event after the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, which had run the party for more than 20 years, announced in February that they wouldn’t produce this year’s party. The Sisters cited concerns about violence as a primary reason for their backing out.

The center and other organizers had to choose a new name for the annual party after the Sisters voted not to let the new planners call it Pink Saturday.

This year’s festival, which will draw thousands of people to the Castro, is set for Saturday, June 27.

McFarlane said she’d floated the new name in a conversation with the Sisters, and “I know they’re fine with it, despite its similarity.”

Sister Selma Soul, who coordinated Pink Saturday from 2012 through 2014, confirmed, “We’re fine with that.”

The Sisters plan to put on a new version of Pink Saturday in 2016, in another location.

The B.A.R. will have more on this story in the Thursday, April 30 edition.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, @ 10:14 am PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


SF archbishop to skip DC marriage rally

San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone will not attend this weekend’s March for Marriage in Washington, D.C., according to a statement released Wednesday by the archdiocese.

(Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone)

(Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone)

Cordileone attended and spoke at last year’s event, sponsored by the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage. He had been expected to attend the April 25 event as well, coming just days before the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a consolidated same-sex marriage case.

But late Wednesday afternoon, the archdiocese issued the statement saying that Cordileone will “remain home to attend to the pastoral needs of the church here at this time.”

“This year’s march, which will have a religious liberty focus, will be attended by a number of other bishops,” the archdiocese’s statement said. They include Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“These and other bishops will be representing the commitment of the Catholic bishops of the United States to the goods of marriage and religious freedom at the March for Marriage in Washington, D.C. this year,” the statement said.

Cordileone has been under intense pressure in recent months. Most recently, 100 prominent Bay Area Catholics took out a full-page ad in the San Francisco Chronicle, urging Pope Francis to appoint a new archbishop. The Bay Area Reporter has twice editorialized for the pope to replace Cordileone.

Cordileone has received criticism for several months for his request to implement new morality clauses to the revised handbook for the San Francisco Archdiocese, of which four Catholic high schools are a part. The clause specifically condemns homosexuality, marriage equality, contraception, ordination of female priests, and assisted reproductive technology such as in-vitro fertilization. He is also in the process of negotiating teacher contracts.

The archdiocese also came under fire last month when it was revealed that St. Mary’s Cathedral for the past two years was regularly dousing homeless people who sleep in the alcoves with cold water from a sprinkler system that was apparently illegally installed and lacks the proper permits. Once it was reported by KCBS, Catholic officials quickly stopped the practice.

— Cynthia Laird, @ 8:37 am PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


Stabbings, attempted arson hit Castro

A giant rainbow flag overlooks San Francisco's Castro district. Photo: Rick Gerharter

A giant rainbow flag overlooks San Francisco’s Castro district. Photo: Rick Gerharter

San Francisco police have reported two stabbings, an attempted arson, and other incidents in the Castro district in recent days.

The first stabbing occurred at 10:45 p.m. Monday, April 20 at 18th and Church streets, near Dolores Park.

The victim, a 48-year-old man, was walking when he encountered three other men, who “demanded money,” Officer Albie Esparza, a police spokesman, said in a summary.

One suspect used a knife to stab the victim in his abdomen and chest and fled, without any money or other items.

The man was taken to San Francisco General Hospital with non-life threatening stab wounds to his lower chest and abdomen, Esparza said.

The suspects were described only as a white male and two Hispanic males, all in their 20s. No arrests have been reported.

Less than two hours later, at 1:15 a.m. Tuesday, April 21 at 18th and Castro streets, two women at a bus stop were in a verbal altercation “over which bus to take to get back to the Fillmore,” Esparza said.

The suspect cut the victim’s hand with a knife, causing a laceration. The victim was taken to San Francisco General Hospital.

The age of the suspect, who hasn’t been arrested, wasn’t known. She was described only as a black female. The victim is 23.

Around the same time Tuesday, there was an attempted arson at a bar in the 2200 block of Market Street.

Arson suspect Troy Collin McCormick. Photo: San Francisco Police Department

Arson suspect Troy Collin McCormick. Photo: San Francisco Police Department

At 12:15 a.m., according to Esparza, a 27-year-old man “had a shopping cart in flames and pushed it against the front door, then he ran.”

Officers later arrested the man, whose name wasn’t available.

[Update Thursday, April 23:]

The incident occurred at the gay sports bar Hi Tops, 2247 Market Street.

Esparza said that Troy Collin McCormick, of San Francisco, was booked on arson charges and resisting arrest. He’s currently in custody.

Hi Tops co-owner Jesse Woodward said the incident occurred “right after we closed on Monday,” when staff were cleaning the bar.

Woodward, who wasn’t there at the time, said McCormick brought “a shopping cart full of garbage, lit it on fire, and put it in front of our doors.” There was no damage to the bar.

Police chased McCormick to the nearby Mix bar, at 4086 18th Street, where they arrested him, Woodward said.

He said McCormick has been to Hi Tops “often,” and he’s personally met him.

“We’ve never done anything to him,” Woodward said. Since he first visited the bar in February, “he just keeps coming and keeps threatening us. We stopped him from coming in months ago,” and staff has called police “every time” he’s shown up, but “he would keep coming back and making threats.”

McCormick once threw a glass at a bartender, and he’s said “he was going to drive a car through the bar,” Woodward said.

He doesn’t know why McCormick has problems with his bar, but he suspects McCormick is “a little bit mentally disturbed.”

The bar’s staff has tried to get a protective order, but “it was a little more complicated than we thought,” Woodward said. However, “the police are going to help us get a restraining order now that he’s in custody.”

McCormick’s comments haven’t been homophobic, Woodward said, and “I have no idea if he’s gay.” Nobody was injured in the incident.

He’s heard that McCormick’s gone to the Café nightclub, at 2369 Market Street, before, “and bugged them.” That bar “had to kick him out,” Woodward said.

A spokesman for the Café didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

A man who answered the phone at the Mix said he didn’t recognize McCormick’s name.

Alex Bastian, a spokesman for the district attorney’s office, said McCormick is being charged with arson, possession of an incendiary device, and resisting arrest. His arraignment is expected to be Friday, April 24 [End update].

The fight over which bus to take wasn’t the only incident at 18th and Castro this week. At 3:45 a.m. Monday, a man was robbed there.

Esparza said the incident started when the suspect approached a 40-year-old man from behind, “knocking him to the ground.” He took the victim’s wallet, cash, and credit card, and fled.

The victim suffered scratches to his hands but refused medical treatment.

No suspect description was available, and no arrests have been reported.

Finally, at 11:15 p.m. last Friday, April 17 in the 400 block of Castro, a 33-year-old man was hit by a Honda Accord after he walked into the street, outside the crosswalk.

The pedestrian had non-life threatening swelling to his head and a cut, and he was taken to San Francisco General Hospital.

The car’s driver, 28, was not arrested.

Anyone with information in any of the incidents may call the San Francisco Police Department’s anonymous tip line at (415) 575-4444. People may also text a tip to TIP411. Type SFPD in the subject line.

The incident numbers are: Stabbing at 18th and Church – 150346564, stabbing at 18th and Castro –150346730, attempted arson on Market – 150346655, robbery at 18th and Castro –150343623, and pedestrian struck on Castro –150337228.

 

— Seth Hemmelgarn, April 22, 2015 @ 5:21 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


Former B.A.R. reporter killed in Sacramento

A former freelance reporter for the Bay Area Reporter was killed near his Sacramento home early Wednesday.

(Former BAR freelance reporter Daniel James Aiello. Photo: Courtesy Aiello's Facebook page)

(Former BAR freelance reporter Daniel James Aiello. Photo: Courtesy Aiello’s Facebook page)

The Sacramento Coroner’s office late Friday identified a man found near his home as Daniel James Aiello, 53.

Sacramento police have arrested two people in connection with Aiello’s April 15 death. Police have classified the killing as murder.

Police said Thursday that Kyle Fletcher, 35, was arrested on suspicion of murder, robbery, and burglary. A second suspect, Sabrina Ahrens-Gravelle, 39, was also taken into custody on suspicion of burglary, according to Officer Traci Trapani of the Sacramento Police Department.

Aiello wrote for the B.A.R. for many years. He extensively covered the Proposition 8 campaign in 2008, focusing on the Mormon Church and the Yes on 8 campaign. Prop 8, California’s former same-sex marriage ban, was struck down on a technicality by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013.

The B.A.R. will have more on this story in next week’s paper.

— Cynthia Laird, April 17, 2015 @ 6:30 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


Police: Woman tried to set man’s face on fire in Castro

A woman who allegedly tried to set someone’s face on fire in San Francisco’s Castro district Sunday is in custody after she was arrested on suspicion of arson and assault with a deadly weapon. [Update Thursday, April 16:] The woman, Victor Ricks, was released this morning, according to the sheriff’s department [End update].

Ricks, 36, of Los Angeles, was in the 400 block of Castro Street at 12:52 p.m. April 12 when a man asked her for a lighter, according to Officer Albie Esparza, a police spokesman.

Ricks allegedly pulled out an aerosol can and a lighter and tried to burn the victim’s face with them, Esparza said. The man, 21, wasn’t injured.

Before the incident, Ricks had been in an argument with the man’s friend, according to Esparza.

Alex Bastian, a spokesman for the district attorney’s office, said today (Wednesday, April 15), that the incident is “under investigation,” and there’s “Insufficient evidence to charge the case at this time.”

— Seth Hemmelgarn, April 15, 2015 @ 3:54 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


Man says Stop AIDS worker told him ‘You are about to die…’

Stop AIDS logoA San Francisco man living with AIDS is claiming an employee of the Stop AIDS Project recently sent him emails saying “You are about to die of AIDS I feel bad for you,” among other things.

Ryan Bentham, 32, said he and Mario Royal, the Stop AIDS worker, went out from 2011 to 2013. Bentham said the relationship ended because of his long work hours.

He reached out to Royal in June 2014 after he was diagnosed and became ill. Royal’s reaction wasn’t good. Bentham said that at one point Royal sent him a text that said something to the effect of “I hope you die a horrible death.” Bentham didn’t save the message.

Then, he says, he got three emails from Royal February 18, which he shared with the Bay Area Reporter and other media outlets today (Wednesday, April 15). The emails, which bear Royal’s name, all came from a Gmail account, rather than a Stop AIDS account.

The first message says, “Good luck on your journey to death.” Several hours later, another email came that reads, “Why do you care you fat ugly sick bitch … I don’t want your punk bitch ugly ass … I’m too sexy for you!!!!!!!!!!” The third message says, “You are about to die of AIDS I feel bad for you.”

In a Facebook exchange with the B.A.R., Royal said of Bentham, “Dude he is fucking crazy,” and he’s “a tweaker who hacks into [people's] shit. … Fuck Ryan!!!!!!” He said he plans to get a restraining order against Bentham.

Royal also told a reporter, “Who are u and why do u need a story about that crazy guy. I don’t email him I text that bitch!!!! He hacked into my phone. I have witnessed him hacking into [people's] computers before so I’m sure he hacked into my phone and stole my contact, text, [etc.]”

Bentham said he doesn’t know what he could’ve done to provoke Royal’s emails.

“He was really bitter, for some reason,” Bentham said, and the messages were “very outside of his personality.”

He said he was “shocked” that Royal “had that kind of hatred toward HIV/AIDS patients” and he was also surprised that Stop AIDS hired Royal in the first place.

“This is not a person that should be working with HIV patients,” he said.

Bentham, who works for the San Mateo County Office of Emergency Services, said he’s never been a client of Royal’s. Stop AIDS is a program of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. Bentham said he contacted the nonprofit last year after Royal’s first message and emailed the organization again Wednesday morning, but he hasn’t received a response.

“I’m deeply disappointed to know that your organization employs Mr. Royal with such hatred toward humanity and lack of understanding in regards to AIDS/HIV positive people,” Bentham told the AIDS foundation in his email Wednesday.

He said he texted Royal last year that he was going to go to Royal’s supervisor, to which Royal responded, “LOL. They love me. They’ll never fire me. I’m the one that makes it all work.” (Bentham said he doesn’t have the texts between him and Royal anymore.)

Bentham’s just now talking about Royal’s messages because “It got under my skin” when he was reading through old emails.

He said he thought, “If all these other people are going to this person for support … Good God, maybe I should let somebody else know that cares.”

Bentham doesn’t want Royal to get fired, but “I just think that they should have him in a different position than assisting people with HIV or AIDS,” he said.

Andrew Hattori, a spokesman for the AIDS foundation, said, “We are looking into” Bentham’s allegations, “but we’re not talking publicly about personnel issues.”

Hattori said he couldn’t comment on whether Royal’s still working for the organization or what may happen to him if the emails are shown to have come from him.

In an email, James Loduca, the AIDS foundation’s vice president for philanthropy and public affairs, said, “This morning is the first we’ve learned of Mr. Bentham’s allegations. We take them seriously, and are looking into them immediately.”

Loduca said he’s reached out to Bentham “to let him know that we take matters like this very seriously, and that his email has triggered an internal investigation into the matter.”

The nonprofit “has a long tradition of promoting respect and dignity for all people living with HIV/AIDS,” Loduca said, and “I can assure you that once the investigation is complete, the appropriate action will be taken based on its findings.”

However, as Hattori had mentioned,  he said, “personnel issues are confidential and cannot otherwise be discussed.”

It appears Royal is still working for Stop AIDS. A woman who answered the phone at the AIDS foundation this morning immediately transferred a call to his direct line, where the outgoing recording includes his name.

In his message to the B.A.R. and others, Bentham included San Francisco Superior Court documents related to a small claims case a man filed against Royal in December 2014. The man said Royal had thrown away several items of his, including pictures of his partner, who’d died of AIDS. A judge eventually ordered Royal to pay the man more than $5,000.

Bentham has had his own court problems, records show. In 2012, two men who lived in a single-room occupancy hotel Bentham was managing requested restraining orders against him.

One of the men claimed that Bentham had made “unwanted sexual advances” toward him and called him “Sweet cheek tight ass,” among other problems. Bentham denied the claims.

The cases were ultimately dismissed with prejudice after none of the parties showed up for one hearing, and the plaintiff didn’t appear for the other.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, @ 12:04 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


Obama calls for end to conversion therapy for minors

Responding to a White House petition, President Barack Obama this week called for an end to the widely discredited practice of conversion therapy for minors.

Writing on the White House blog Wednesday, April 8, senior adviser Valerie Jarrett said, “As part of our dedication to protecting America’s youth, this administration supports efforts to ban the use of conversion therapy for minors.”

(President Barack Obama)

(President Barack Obama)

Conversion therapy, also known as reparative therapy, seeks to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity. It is opposed by most major medical and mental health organizations, including the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association.

“Tonight, somewhere in America, a young person, let’s say a young man, will struggle to fall to sleep, wrestling alone with a secret he’s held as long as he can remember,” Obama wrote on the blog. “Soon, perhaps, he will decide it’s time to let that secret out. What happens next depends on him, his family, as well as his friends and his teachers and his community. But it also depends on us – on the kind of society we engender, the kind of future we build.”

In her comments, Jarrett said it’s important for people to get advice from qualified health professionals.

“When assessing the validity of conversion therapy, or other practices that seek to change an individual’s gender identity or sexual orientation, it is as imperative to seek guidance from certified medical experts,” Jarrett wrote. “The overwhelming scientific evidence demonstrates that conversion therapy, especially when it is practiced on young people, is neither medically nor ethically appropriate and can cause substantial harm.”

Local LGBT organizations praised the president’s announcement.

“Equality California applauds and commends President Obama for his statement calling for an end to ‘conversion therapy,’ the damaging psychological abuse practiced by some mental health professionals who falsely claim that they can change a person’s sexual orientation or gender expression,” EQCA Executive Director Rick Zbur said in a statement.

Zbur pointed to a California law signed by Governor Jerry Brown that bans licensed therapists in the state from attempting to change the sexual orientation or gender expression of patients under the age of 18. The Golden State became the first in the nation to enact such a law, which was used as a model in New Jersey and Washington, D.C. Several other states are considering similar action this year, EQCA noted.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights also applauded the White House announcement.

“There are few things more powerful to our children’s self-worth than having the president of the United States say you matter,” NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell said in a statement. “These powerful statements from President Obama and Valerie Jarrett not only affirm the lives of our transgender brothers and sisters, but the lives of all LGBT people.

“Today, our president made clear that we can and must do better,” Kendell continued. “Every LGBT child deserves to live with full dignity, free from shame, embraced for who they are. Today brings us one step closer to that moment.”

The petition seeking to ban conversion therapy was started after the December 2014 suicide of Leelah Alcorn, a 17-year-old transgender youth. In a note she left behind, Alcorn explained how her parents had forced her to attend conversion therapy, pulled her out of school, and isolated her in an attempt to change her gender identity.

The petition received 120,958 signatures, enough to have the White House respond.

— Cynthia Laird, April 9, 2015 @ 11:04 am PST
Filed under: News,Politics


Suhr recommends firing for more officers involved in racist, anti-gay texts

Police Chief Greg Suhr. Photo: Rick Gerharter

Police Chief Greg Suhr. Photo: Rick Gerharter

San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr announced today (Friday, April 3) that he’s recommending to the city’s police commission that eight officers should be fired for allegedly exchanging racist and homophobic text messages. One of the officers already quit, and Suhr anticipated another would resign today.

Fourteen officers were the target of a police investigation spawned by the federal case against former Sergeant Ian Furminger. A motion filed in that case in March revealed that Furminger and other officers had sent texts in 2011 and 2012 using the n-word, “fag,” and other derogatory terms.

At a news conference today to announce the investigation’s completion, Suhr said it “makes me sick to even talk about” the text messages, and he’s “disgusted.”

The eight officers’ exchanges showed “such extreme bias” that Suhr “believes their conduct is incompatible with the duties of a police officer. These officers’ text messages are of such despicable thinking that those responsible clearly fall below the minimum standards required to be a police officer,” police said in a news release today. The officers have already been suspended.

Furminger, who was convicted in December of stealing and other crimes, left the department not long after his conviction, and he’s not one of the eight officers.

Officer Michael Robison, the officer allegedly involved in the text exchanges who’s already resigned, is gay. Robison hasn’t responded to the Bay Area Reporter’s interview requests.

Two other officers were involved in “single texting that included inflammatory texts which did not rise to the level of the other eight officers,” police said. The two officers’ explanations “should be heard by the police commission.”

“If you read the text messages” of the two officers, “it’s not even close,” Suhr said.

The two have been reassigned to positions where they don’t have contact with the public. Their cases have been forwarded to the commission, which may decide to terminate them.

Four other officers took part in single texting events with Furminger that violated department policy, but not in a way that involved hate speech.

“Their conduct was also inappropriate, but it was not determined to be racist or homophobic,” Suhr said.

Their actions included failing to tell anyone about Furminger’s messages and responding to the former sergeant “in a manner unbecoming an officer,” police said.

Suhr will discipline these remaining officers. He can suspend them without pay for up to 10 days.

“There is no place in the San Francisco Police Department – and shouldn’t be in any police department – for a dishonest cop,” Suhr stated. “There is also no place in the SFPD for any officer capable of the thinking expressed in these hateful text messages. The officers responsible for the reprehensible texts should be separated from the SFPD as soon as practical. The fine, right-minded men and women of the SFPD that are of the impeccable character required of a Guardian (police officer) expect no less.”

The 14 officers included a captain and “at least one sergeant,” Suhr told reporters today. The captain isn’t in charge of any of the city’s district stations, he said.

Police said that in late January, “the FBI provided volumes of documents, including the text messages,” to the police department and the Office of Citizen Complaints.

“We poured over some 30,000 pages,” Suhr said. “… We canvassed every single piece of paper for text messages.” Still, he said, the investigation revealed involvement by only the 14 officers.

Suhr added that his agency would examine the 14 officers’ personal background questionnaires to see if there’s a common thread that could have indicated problems, and his staff will then do a random sampling of other current officers’ questionnaires.

“We cannot have this in San Francsico,” he said, adding, “We have to do everything” possible “to root out” such problems.

The community’s trust is “critical” for police to do their job, he said.

Suhr said he wouldn’t rule out more training to guard against bias.

In a press release following Suhr’s news conference, Public Defender Jeff Adachi said “Chief Greg Suhr’s recommendation to terminate officers accused of sending racist and homophobic text messages is a step in the right direction, and I strongly encourage the Police Commission follow suit.”

Adachi called references to the “hateful” texts “as innocent banter is dead wrong. 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.”

The public defender said Suhr and the police commission should make all officers undergo “at least 25 hours in racial bias training.”

He said police officials should also “institute a policy requiring officers who witness a colleague engaging in racial bias to report it to their superior officers or face discipline. Training and reinforcement is the only way to ensure that racial bias by police does not harm our citizenry.”

In a follow-up email, Tamara Aparton, Adachi’s spokeswoman, said the training the public defender is suggesting “would be training on recognizing and combatting both conscious and unconscious bias – that includes race and LGBT.”

Suhr said his agency is looking at cases in which the officers were involved, and Adachi and District Attorney George Gascon have said they’re doing the same.

“We look forward to reviewing all the cases and reports made by the officers involved in sending or responding to the racist texts,” Adachi said. “We expect that this will significantly widen our investigation beyond the 1,000 estimated cases that must be reviewed.”

— Seth Hemmelgarn, April 3, 2015 @ 4:32 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


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