SF judge: 7 SFPD officers can't be punished for racist text messages

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A judge ruled that the San Francisco officers accused of sending offensive texts cannot be punished because the department waited too long to discipline them.

This is a case where even the officers' attorneys say they aren't celebrating their court victory because of their clients' misconduct, but they add that's not what this case is about. It's about the statute of limitations, pure and simple.

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Judge Ernest Goldsmith ruled that the San Francisco Police Department waited too long to discipline the seven officers accused of exchanging racist and homophobic text messages with former Sgt. Ian Furminger. He was convicted in federal court of public corruption late last year.

San Francisco's Internal Affairs investigators received the offensive texts from the U.S. attorney two years before. However, they say a court order prevented them from divulging the texts because it could jeopardize the prosecution of Furminger. So they waited until early this year when the federal case ended to divulge the texts to Police Chief Greg Suhr.

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That is when Suhr started disciplinary proceedings at the Police Commission, asking them to fire the officers. But the judge said the officers' Bill Of Rights clearly states that the statute of limitations for police investigations is one year.

Attorney Allison Berry Wilkinson represents one of the officers. She told reporters, "What happens now is that the department cannot take any action against these officers for the exchange of text messages that occurred in 2011 and 2012."

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Deputy City Attorney Kenneth Walsack, who is representing the police department, says the tentative ruling which became final on Monday, will jeopardize future investigations.

"The courts tentative ruling failed to take into account the necessity of police cooperation with outside criminal investigations," Walczak said.

Suhr says his department will appeal the ruling. The seven officers have been placed on administrative leave with pay.
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