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 100 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.
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