The San Francisco district attorney’s office charged a former San Francisco police lieutenant with obstructing a rape investigation on Wednesday. Hours later Curtis Liu was arrested on a felony charge of making a false statement in a police report and two misdemeanor charges of obstructing or delaying a police officer.
The criminal charges against former Lieutenant Liu were made after his alleged obstruction of a rape investigation into former officer Jason Lai was uncovered. Jason Lai, once Liu’s subordinate, resigned this month after investigators looking into the sexual assault accusation–for which Lai was never charged–uncovered racist and homophobic texts on his phone.
— Vivian Ho (@VivianHo) April 26, 2016
A law enforcement official confirmed to CNN that the charges against Liu were connected to his mishandling of the sexual assault allegations against Lai, despite the district attorney’s choice to leave Lai’s name out of the press release about Liu’s charges.
The charges against Lai made public on Wednesday detail how former officer Lai revealed to Liu that he was under investigation for rape after an alleged victim filed a report against him on August 7, 2015. Then Liu “engaged in a series of actions designed to keep the investigation from focusing on the officer,” including lies told to his superiors about discussing the situation with Lai and allowing a police report to be filed about the rape where the suspect was listed as “unknown.”
It is unclear whether the failure of prosecutors to file rape charges against Lai can be attributed to his superior officer, Liu, for obstructing the investigation.
Liu’s attorney, Tony Brass, has stated that Liu was not one of the officers implicated in the texting scandal, although he had received texts from at least one of them.
On Tuesday the press was given pages of examples of the texts exchanged between Lai and other SFPD officers in 2014 and 2015. Four officers have been accused of making disparaging statements about blacks, Hispanics, Indians, Muslims and gay people. Of the four, three have left the SFPD, and the remaining officer is facing disciplinary action.
“I hate that beaner,” read one text from former officer Lau, “but I think the nig is worse.”
After news of the texts broke, San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr issued a public apology for the vile texts, the second such scandal in the past two years. Suhr stated during a press conference that he has “no tolerance for officers who hold such reprehensible views” and that the reading the texts from Lai “literally makes me sick to my stomach.”
The first series of racist texts published in 2015 severely tarnished the department’s public image and raised questions about how officers confront suspects of color. The nation scrutinized how a department composed of such racist individuals could be trusted to have acted properly in the high-profile officer-involved shooting of Mario Woods.
The offensive texts discovered in 2015, like those being revealed this week, would not have been uncovered if phone records had not been looked at as evidence in other investigations. The public only has knowledge of San Francisco’s racist texts between officers because they were accidentally found.
— M.J. Williams (@_mjwilliams_) April 27, 2016
Despite Suhr’s efforts to condemn the racism of his department and speak of the texts as if they were isolated incidences, several groups have called on the police chief to resign. There have been rumors that Suhr knew about the first set of racist texts for a long period of time, before they became public. Protestors have initiated a hunger strike, led by rapper Equipto, calling for Suhr’s resignation outside of the Mission Police Station.
The activists occupying tents outside of the station entrance are drawing attention to police brutality and how it is driven by the racist intentions of police officers. They are calling attention to four officer-involved deaths of unarmed people of color: Amilcar Perez Lopez, Mario Woods, Luis Gongora, and Alejandro Nieto. In the deaths of each of these men, witness reports and autopsy findings conflict with the statements given by the SFPD to justify their use of lethal force.
— Prison_Health (@Prison_Health) April 24, 2016
— New York Daily News (@NYDailyNews) April 28, 2016