LOS ANGELES—Both the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department and the San Francisco Police Department are vowing to fix problems involving recent racist emails and text message scandals that have hit their respective departments. LASD’s Chief Tom Angel offered his resignation on May 1 due to inappropriate and unprofessional e-mails, according to a statement by Sheriff Jim McDonnell. In a press release from the SFPD, four officers were investigated for racist and homophobic text messages.
“We are only as effective as the relationships, credibility and trust we have with our community; this is a fundamental point that I and LASD personnel take very seriously,” said McDonnell in a statement.
Three to four years ago, Angel had sent multiple racist e-mails that were seen once they were obtained by the Los Angeles Times. Since Angel resigned McDonnell assured the public in his statement that he is coming up with solutions to the problem. In the immediate future, LASD personnel will be meeting with constituent groups throughout the county to gain a better understanding of the varied cultures, orientations, ethnicities and religions they serve.
An examination and assessment of current training, curriculum, existing policies and systems for accountability will take place. For example, a system of random audits of e-mail accounts of LASD personnel will be implemented. These measures will enhance cultural and ethnic sensitivity and professionalism.
“Despite the Sheriff’s Department’s many recent efforts to fortify public trust and enhance internal and external accountability and transparency, this incident reminds us that we and other law enforcement agencies still have work to do. I intend to turn this situation into a learning opportunity for all LASD personnel,” said McDonnell.
The resignation of Angel happened on the tail end of a similar situation the SFPD has been investigating. On May 2, the SFPD released the remaining text messages that were associated with an investigation that began in 2015.
In 2015, an off-duty officer was being investigated for a sexual assault allegation. During the investigation four officers were found to be involved with sending text messages that contained racist and homophobic content. Since the investigation began, three of the four officers have separated from the department, two have been charged, and the fourth officer has an open case pending with the Police Commission.
Former SPFD Officer Jason Lai has been charged with six misdemeanor counts for unlawful access and/or use of criminal and motor vehicle databases. On Wednesday, April 27, former police lieutenant Curtis Liu was arrested on one felony count of filing a false police report and two misdemeanor counts of obstructing an investigation stemming from the sexual assault case.
“Because this was an ongoing criminal investigation, the Department was unable to discuss the text messages. With the culmination of the criminal investigation this week with the charging of Mr. Liu, we think it is important for the public to know that we conducted the investigation, discovered the texts and took immediate action, and that those responsible for such hateful texts are no longer police officers,” said San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr in the statement. “Those former members betrayed the public’s trust and the trust of the right-minded, hard-working men and women of the San Francisco Police Department.”
The SFPD currently provides implicit bias training in the Basic Academy and as part of ongoing, professional officer training. Now the higher officials will attend an advanced implicit bias training program provided by San Francisco Human Rights Commission in conjunction with the Mayor’s Office and all officers will attend implicit bias training before the middle of May.
“On the behalf of the right-minded, upstanding members of the San Francisco Police Department, we will cut out this cancer of intolerance, and continue working hard every day to restore the trust of the City and the people we are privileged to serve,” said Chief Suhr.