We have reached a point in society where it’s no longer uncommon to find many police officers who are explicitly racist and homophobic, and oftentimes channel this inappropriate behavior into the line of duty. A recent scandal focuses on a San Francisco police officer named Jason Lai. A plethora of unprofessional text messages involving a handful of officers were brought to light, ultimately leading to the resignation of the officer at the heart of the investigation. On top of these charges, Lai has had sexual assault allegations against him as well as multiple misdemeanor counts of illegally accessing the DMV computers for nonofficial purposes.
Some messages sent contained slurs against African-Americans, Indians, Mexicans, Asians and homeless people. The officers involved used coded language to talk about gay coworkers and minorities from the low-income Tenderloin district. Police Chief Greg Suhr claims the problem is limited to a relative handful of officers and isn’tpart of a broader cultural problem within the ranks. I respectfully disagree. According to CNN, this is the second time the department has been the subject of a racist texting scandal. Suhr has made a statement assuring the public of his plans to have the department undergo “bias training” to ensure every officer understands the behavior mentioned is intolerable.
In text messages unveiled by public defender Jeff Adachi, Lai makes disparaging jokes about President Obama as well as basketball player Lebron James. In another exchange during the civil unrest in Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray, he compared African-Americans to “a pack of wild animals on the loose.”
These messages were only revealed after a previous scandal involving similar text messages made by a sergeant who was convicted of stealing money and drugs from residents of Tenderloin hotels. Considering this scandal is only a reflection of one city’s police department, it makes you wonder what other inappropriate behavior goes on without knowledge within departments across the United States. The deep-rooted corruption that exists within a system that’s sole job is to protect the people of a community is frightening and frankly, intolerable. African-American Sergeant Yulanda Williams was singled out by name and called a racial slur during the first texting scandal. “It made me wonder what must I do as a black woman to prove that I’m worthy of wearing the same blue uniform as my fellow officers,” she said.
The institutional racism exhibited in these scandals is a major step backwards for minorities — especially women — who are already struggling to fight the system that so often discriminates against them.
District Attorney George Gascon, who previously ran the department, weighed in on the case by saying, “There’s a substantial number of people within the organization that are racist and there’s a culture that has allowed those people to thrive and survive and even promote within that environment.”
The relationship between police officers and minorities is a problematic one. The racial profilingtaught within the academy is stunting the progresswe are making as a society.
The intricate web of lies that has existed for years within the justice system needs to be eradicated on a federal level. If people in high positions were to begin implementing non-biased work environments, it would set an example for people and establish a sense of camaraderie among citizens and the law.
We cannot continue to be desensitized to the blatant racism that’s so prevalent within systems that hold so much power over. Racists shouldn’t be protected under any circumstance, especially when their job description relies on good judgement and precision.