San Francisco public defender releases racist police texts

SAN FRANCISCO Racist and homophobic text messages sent by a San Francisco police officer were released by the city’s public defender on Tuesday, in the second scandal in a year over slur-filled messages linked to local police.

Public Defender Jeff Adachi released six pages worth of former officer Jason Lai’s text messages, which were full of slurs and expletives referencing black, Indian, Latino, Muslim, gay and transgender people.

The texts refer to African-Americans as barbarians and “wild animals on the loose,” while others insult President Barack Obama and NBA superstar LeBron James. One said it was unfortunate that black shooting suspects did not kill each other.

“It is chilling how casually former officer Lai dehumanizes the citizens he was sworn to serve,” Adachi said in a statement. “He wished violence upon the very people he was being paid to protect and none of his colleagues turned him in.”

Lai’s attorney, Don Nobles, could not be reached for comment on Tuesday. But he told CNN, “there is no evidence he carried out any of those sentiments as an officer.”

Adachi said the messages could affect more than 200 criminal cases, including three murders. He said his office received the texts while representing a client in a robbery case Lai helped investigate.

Adachi said the messages first came to light in a separate police probe of Lai. The San Francisco District Attorney’s Office ultimately charged Lai with six misdemeanor counts of unlawful access and use of criminal and Department of Motor Vehicle information.

The police department said on Tuesday Lai was one of several officers caught up in the texting scandal, which was revealed last month by the District Attorney’s Office.

In total three officers, including Lai, are no longer with the department and another is facing possible discipline from the Police Commission.

“There is no room in this department for anyone who holds these types of hateful and discriminatory views,” Police Chief Greg Suhr said in a statement.

Protesters have been calling for Suhr’s ouster since last December, after police shot and killed Mario Woods, a black stabbing suspect who was not carrying a gun.

The U.S. Justice Department has launched a collaborative review with the department, falling short of the federal civil rights investigation critics of the department called for.

Last year, 14 officers were caught up in a similar texting scandal, prompting the review of thousands of cases as prosecutors sought to make sure evidence would not be tainted by the scandal.

(Reporting by Curtis Skinner in San Francisco; Editing by Sharon Bernstein and Tom Brown)

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