This week’s San Francisco Police Department announcement that it is expanding a probe into offensive text messages by four officers to include 10 more is expanding the nationwide dialogue over racism in police departments, the Christian Science Monitor reports. The racist and homophobic text messages came to light after the disclosure that former Sgt. Ian Furminger, convicted of federal corruption charges, had exchanged comments with four officers in 2011 and 2012. The widening of the case is being seen as a further example of the need for the public and police watchdog groups to pay attention to the culture that goes on behind the blue wall of silence.
“This is further evidence that American policing has not come as far as some thought since Rodney King and we need to ramp up assessment of the screening of [police] recruits to weed out such attitudes before such people are trained,” says Mary Powers of the National Coalition on Police Accountability. “That this has happened in one of America’s most diverse cities is unfortunate evidence that such bias and ignorance is more widespread than we know.” Some say the problem goes further than a few San Francisco officers. “Just check out social media: People post racist, sexist, homophobic things with regularity…The issue is being framed as if this is an exceptional occurrence, when it is not,” says Gordon Coonfield, director of graduate studies in communication at Villanova University.