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Ash writes: "There is a scandal involving a major American urban police department that is going almost entirely ignored."

'The tradition of violent racists infiltrating American police agencies has a rich history.' (photo: SF Gate)
'The tradition of violent racists infiltrating American police agencies has a rich history.' (photo: SF Gate)

Bullwhips Crackin' in Northern California

By Marc Ash, Reader Supported News

08 April 15


here is a scandal involving a major urban American police department that is going almost entirely ignored.  

San Francisco evokes images of hippies, gay tolerance, and world class dining. It is viewed as the most liberal major American city. But there is another, darker side to San Francisco and the region that surrounds it.  

It began with a federal investigation into allegations of corruption. Ultimately San Francisco police officers would be charged with stealing cash and other property from a wide range of suspects. One of the officers charged, Reynaldo Vargas, would later testify, “If I saw something I wanted, I took it.”

Vargas and other officers would also implicate a colleague who would emerge as a central player and focus of the investigation and subsequent trail: Sergeant Ian Furminger.

Furminger and Officer Edmond Robles were both convicted of wire fraud, conspiracy to commit theft, theft of more than $5,000 worth of property from a federally funded program, and another charge, conspiracy against civil rights.

From all appearances, it looked like a disturbing but otherwise fairly routine tale of cops gone bad in the big city. But there was another, far more explosive component contained in the evidence. Something that would put the entire department on trial.

As part of their investigation into corruption charges, the FBI had obtained copies of Furminger’s phone records including, most notably, his text messages. What was contained in the messages made the corruption problems pale in comparison:

  • “We got two blacks at my boys [sic] school and they are brother and sister! There cause dad works for the school district and I am watching them like hawks.”

  • In response to a text asking, “Do you celebrate quanza [sic] at your school?” Furminger wrote: “Yeah we burn the cross on the field! Then we celebrate Whitemas.”

  • “Its [sic] worth every penny to live here [Walnut Creek] away from the savages.”

  • “Those guys are pretty stupid! Ask some dumb ass questions you would expect from a black rookie! Sorry if they are your buddies!”

  • “The buffalo soldier was why the Indians Wouldnt [sic] shoot the niggers that found for the confederate They [sic] thought they were sacred buffalo and not human.”

  • “Gunther Furminger was a famous slave auctioneer.”

  • “My wife has 2 friends over that don't know each other the cool one says to me get me a drink nigger not knowing the other is married to one just happened right now LMFAO.”

  • “White power.”

  • In response to a text saying “Niggers should be spayed,” Furminger wrote, “I saw one an hour ago with 4 kids.”

  • “I am leaving it like it is, painting KKK on the sides and calling it a day!”

  • “Cross burning lowers blood pressure! I did the test myself!”

  • In response to a text saying “All niggers must fucking hang,” Furminger wrote, “Ask my 6 year old what he thinks about Obama.”

  • In response to a text saying “Just boarded train at Mission/16th,” Furminger wrote, “Ok, just watch out for BM’s [black males].”

  • In response to a text from another SFPD officer regarding the promotion of a black officer to sergeant, Furminger wrote: “Fuckin nigger.”

It’s Not Against the Law to Put an Animal Down

There was yet another exchange: Furminger comments to another SFPD officer, “I hate to tell you this but my wife friend [sic] is over with their kids and her husband is black! If [sic] is an Attorney but should I be worried?” The other officer responds, “Get ur pocket gun. Keep it available in case the monkey returns to his roots. Its [sic] not against the law to put an animal down.” To which Furminger responds, “Well said!”

The reality is that it really isn’t against the law to put an animal, or a human being defined as an animal, down as long as it is the law doing it.  

As Ferguson Officer Darren Wilson kept firing his gun time and time again at unarmed Michael Brown, who had his hands raised, did he see Michael as something more than an animal to be put down?

As NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo choked the life out of Eric Garner in the middle of a busy New York City street in front of countless witnesses, did he really believe that he was killing a human being?

As half the Police Department of the City of Cleveland, Ohio, defied the orders of their commanders chasing unarmed Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, firing 137 shots at them and ultimately executing them at point-blank range, surely they could not have seen Russell and Williams as human beings.

As 12-year-old Tamir Rice lay dying on the snow-covered playground, the officer who had just shot him and his partner refused to allow Tamir’s mother and sister come to him. They threatened Tamir’s mother, Samaria, with arrest and literally tackled 14-year-old Tajai to prevent her from getting to her dying brother’s side. The same remorse, the same concern, the same dignity they would have afforded an animal.

Jessie Hernandez was a beautiful 17-year-old lesbian, hispanic girl. She was also joy-riding in a stolen car. Although no evidence exists to support their claims, the Denver police say that they feared for their lives and that is why they shot Jessie through the heart, both lungs, her liver, her pelvis, and her leg. As her body struggled for life, the police dragged her unconscious from the car, threw her face down on the ground, and handcuffed her. She was unarmed. An animal they had just put down.

In a scene from the 1988 movie, Mississippi Burning, an FBI agent asks a young African American boy for any shred of information that could shed light on what might have happened to missing civil rights workers Michael (Mickey) Schwerner, James Chaney, and Andrew Goodman. The boy simply replies, “You should start with the sheriff’s office.” Indeed, all three men were abducted and murdered by Neshoba County, Mississippi, sheriff's deputies acting under “color of law.” Put down just as though they were animals.

The tradition of violent racists infiltrating American police agencies has a rich history. While 20th century southern law enforcement agencies attracted the most attention for harboring racist elements, racist and homophobic individuals are deeply embedded in law enforcement throughout the U.S. to this day.

San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr so far has set the number of officers engaging in racist or homophobic remarks at eight, including a captain. But that’s just what Suhr is prepared to talk about publicly. Suhr is calling for their resignations.  

However, roughly one hundred miles northeast of San Francisco in the state’s capital, Sacramento, there is another case with equally troubling racial overtones. African American community civil rights activist Maile Hampton is charged by Sacramento Police with the crime of lynching. The logic they apply is that Hampton attempted to pull a fellow demonstrator from the grasp of a police officer. The charge stems from the language in a 1933 law that was originally intended to mitigate real lynchings by angry mobs who would forcibly remove detainees from police custody, often resulting vigilante-style murders.

Applying this law to demonstrators who are often demanding an end to racist police practices has become a favorite tactic of California police. An exacerbation of existing racial tensions, with intent, again under “color of law.”

FBI investigators rather stumbled into the original racist text messages by Ian Furminger as part of a corruption investigation. The sentiments expressed by Furminger and at least eight other SFPD officers are now in the public record.  

It is certainly the tip – not the iceberg.

Marc Ash was formerly the founder and Executive Director of Truthout, and is now founder and Editor of Reader Supported News.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner
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