San Francisco government will do everything possible to keep its police officers from being disciplined.
Excerpted from San Francisco Examiner 7.30.2019
A dispute over whether San Francisco has run out of time to fire two of the officers implicated in exchanging racist and homophobic text messages could result in the cops avoiding discipline.
Sgt. Michael Wibunsin and Officer Angel Lozano have asked a judge to dismiss the disciplinary charges that the Department of Police Accountability filed against them last November over the bigoted text messages.
City records show that the officers remain on the force.
Wibunsin and Lozano were among the 14 officers allegedly connected with the text messages that federal authorities made public in early 2015 after discovering them during an investigation into police corruption.
The messages were discovered on the phone of a former police sergeant at the center of the corruption probe. The texts included the frequent use of the n-word, a homophobic slur and phrases such as “cross burning lowers blood pressure.”
At issue is whether a one-year statute of limitations had expired by the time the DPA sought to fire Wibunsin and Lozano.
Attorneys for the officers say The City missed the deadline. But the City Attorney’s Office argues that separate litigation over the text messages effectively stopped the clock from running for several years.
San Francisco Superior Court Judge Ethan Schulman appeared to side with the officers earlier this month when he temporarily blocked the Police Commission from holding a disciplinary hearing for Wibunsin.
Though he has not made a final decision in the case, Schulman indicated that he believed the limitations period had expired.
The DPA sought to fire the two officers after an apparent technicality prompted the San Francisco Police Department to withdraw its long-pending charges against them last May.
When former Police Chief Greg Suhr filed the initial charges in April 2015, attorneys for Wibunsin and Lozano argued that he did not sufficiently notify the officers about what discipline they were facing.
“The fact that the complaint was later withdrawn in light of a procedural defect does not call for tolling of the limitations period until DPA could file its complaint several years later,” Schulman wrote in his July 8 ruling, approving a preliminary injunction against The City.
“Having dismissed its initial disciplinary complaint, The City is not entitled to essentially refile its complaint through a different agency long after the limitations period ran,” Schulman continued.
The ruling marks the latest roadblock that city officials have faced while attempting to punish nine of the officers involved in the scandal, which plainly showed for many that racial bias existed within the SFPD.