New Racist, Homophobic Texts Emerge In Ongoing SFPD Scandal

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – As the San Francisco police continue to deal with scandals involving racist and homophobic texts, inflammatory new messages emerged from a former officer on Tuesday.

San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi released the disturbing text messages reportedly sent to and from Officer Jason Lai with a press release Tuesday. Among the slurs allegedly used were a derogatory term for Hispanics, a shortened version of the n-word, a misspelled Cantonese slur for blacks, and a message calling Indian people “disgusting.”

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

The messages on Lai’s phone were discovered after he was accused of raping a woman while off-duty. Investigators said they couldn’t find enough evidence to charge him with sexual assault, but he was charged with illegally accessing the alleged victim’s DMV records.

• ALSO READ: New Claims Of Racist Texts Among SFPD Officers Mocking Previous Scandal

Lai also reportedly used offensive language to refer to gay officers.

The text messages exchanged between the officers in question may affect at least 207 criminal cases, including three murder cases, according to Adachi.

“So when we’re talking about biased policing or racial profiling, there is a direct connection to what these officers are saying and what is happening on the streets,” said Adachi.

San Francisco Chief of Police Greg Suhr held a press conference Tuesday afternoon to address the latest round of texts that were made public.

“It literally makes me sick to my stomach, including today when I had to read them again,” said Suhr. “I apologize to the public. We are better than this.”

Suhr did his best to do damage control at the event.

“It is clearly incompatible with the character required of being a police officer,” said Suhr.

Suhr said two of the three officers involved in the texting scandal are no long with the department, but admitted they weren’t fired. He described their leaving as “voluntary separation.”

“The culture of this police department is, you demonstrate yourself to be a racist and a homophobe and you’re not going to be a police officer in San Francisco,” said Suhr.

In a statement to CNN, Lai’s attorney said the texts were between Lai and some of his closest friends in the department and people he met while on patrol.

This is the second time in as many years racist texts between San Francisco police officers have come to light.

• ALSO READ: Activists Protest SFPD Shootings With Mission District Hunger Strike

In addition to Lai, prosecutors have named two current SFPD officers in the most recent texting scandal—Curtis Liu and Keith Ybaretta. Their messages have not been provided to the public defender.

“It would be naive to believe these officers’ bigotry was reserved solely for text messages,” Adachi said in the press release. “It is a window into the biases they harbored. It likely influenced who they stopped, who they searched, who they arrested, and how they testified in criminal trials.”

Mayor Ed Lee addressed this latest case Tuesday morning, saying he doesn’t believe this reflects the city as a whole.

“We will not tolerate any police officers who evidence this kind of racism, this kind of anti-San Francisco, and still be a police officer in uniform for this city,” said Lee.

Lai is scheduled to be arraigned on charges of illegally accessing DMV records on May 3rd.  He resigned from the police department earlier this month after officials found the offensive text messages.

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