Tuesday News Roundup
Former SFPD Lieutenant Denies Sending Racist Texts, Pleads Not Guilty to Criminal Charges
An attorney for a former San Francisco police lieutenant recently named in a scandal over racist text messages today said his client had not sent offensive messages himself and had tried to tell a fellow officer to stop sending them.
Curtis Liu, a retired lieutenant with the San Francisco Police Department, appeared in court today and entered a not guilty plea to felony
and misdemeanor charges after he allegedly interfered with a police investigation into sexual assault allegations against his fellow officer, Jason Lai.
Liu, who was arrested last week, allegedly tipped Lai off about the investigation and then lied to subordinates and his superior officers to
cover it up.
The subsequent investigation uncovered text messages exchanged among officers connected to Lai, including Liu, that contained racist and sexist language and derogatory references to blacks, Latinos, Indians, Muslims, protesters, rape victims and gay and transgender people.
The text messages, the second set of such messages uncovered in recent years during criminal investigations of officers, have developed into a growing scandal over allegations of racism within the department.
Tony Brass, Liu’s defense attorney, said today outside court that his client was a “passive recipient” of racist texts, and that he tried to
tell the officer sending the messages to stop, but recognizes now that he should have done more.
“I think everyone’s aware that there is racism in the department, I don’t think that’s a debate,” Brass said. “The texting is a serious issue,
it does have to be stopped, you can’t have police officers joking, talking like that.”
While acknowledging the allegations against Liu are serious, Brass suggested he wouldn’t have been charged in criminal court if it weren’t for
the scandal surrounding the text messages.
“Obviously he’s very ashamed of why he’s here, but this is the type of misconduct that’s sorted out in administrative hearings within the
Police Department,” Brass said.
Police Chief Greg Suhr said last week that three officers implicated in the scandal have left the force since the messages were uncovered while a fourth was referred for discipline including possible termination before the Police Commission.
Speaking after the contents of many of the messages were released last week, Suhr condemned the sentiments and language used and said the department would not tolerate such attitudes among its officers.
The initial investigation against Lai, initiated in August of last year after a woman he had been drinking with during his off-duty hours
alleged that he had raped her, found insufficient evidence to charge him with sexual assault.
However, he was arrested in March on six misdemeanor charges of misusing criminal and state Department of Motor Vehicle databases based on
information uncovered during the investigation.
Lai also appeared in court this morning and entered a not guilty plea to all charges.
Protestors in Support of Hunger Strikers Interrupt Board of Supervisors Meeting
Hundreds of protesters came to San Francisco City Hall this afternoon in support of hunger strikers calling for the ouster of the city’s police chief and interrupted a Board of Supervisors meeting to shout their demands.
Five people dubbed the #Frisco5 have refrained from eating for 13 days in protest of recent police killings in San Francisco and are calling
for Mayor Ed Lee to fire police Chief Greg Suhr. Hundreds of their supporters marched from the Mission Police Station to City Hall this afternoon, pushing the five hunger strikers in wheelchairs, and then gathered in Civic Center Plaza at about 2:30 p.m. while chanting “Fire Chief Suhr!”
The protesters then entered City Hall and stood outside the door to the mayor’s office, where they were told by a staffer that Lee was not
inside. Around the same time, Lee posted a photo on Twitter from a meeting with merchants in the city’s Bayview District in support of small businesses.
Some of the protesters then went into the Board of Supervisors chambers and called for the supervisors to make the mayor fire Suhr.
“Now is the time to take action,” one protester said at the meeting. “People are dying literally across the hall, they’re withering away.
Are you ready to do something?”
Board president London Breed then called for a recess of the meeting while chanting continued.
The protesters hoped to meet with the mayor following recent fatal shootings by police officers in San Francisco, including of Mario Woods by
several officers in the Bayview District in December. Bystanders captured that shooting on video and it circulated widely on social media.
“Technology is taking over and we’re tired of seeing it on video,” said Felia Sala, a Vallejo resident attending today’s protest.
Jose Hernandez, a Daly City resident also at the protest, questioned why police didn’t use crisis negotiators in cases like Woods’ before opening fire and said the shootings are an example of injustice in the city.
“San Francisco is the most beautiful city aesthetically, but not in a social or economic way,” Hernandez said.
The march from the Mission District to City Hall blocked traffic on many major thoroughfares in the city this afternoon, including Mission Street, Market Street and Van Ness Avenue.