From Fajitagate to Videogate, the San Francisco Police Department has had its fair share of misconduct issues with their officers over the past several years.
Now Officer James “Jimmy” Lewis, who was one of two dozen officers suspended and charged with harassment and neglect of duty after their appearance in the now-infamous videos back in 2005, will have his day before a member of the Police Commission in a meeting that is open to the public.
The series of comedy sketches, which were originally shown at a police department Christmas party, were deemed “shameful,” “offensive,” and “racist,” by Mayor Gavin Newsom at a December 2005 press conference at which he and then Police Chief Heather Fong presented these videos to the media.
Uniformed officers appeared in skits in which they were accused of making fun of the homeless, portraying women in a sexually suggestive manner, and demoralizing persons of color. For example, Officer Lewis, who is African American, appeared in one video with a dog leash around his neck that was held by another officer who was also African American.
Officer Andrew Cohen, who produced the videos, resigned back in February to avoid termination, saying, “I fought a good fight and can’t take any more time on this.” But Officer Lewis has steadily held his ground throughout the four and a half years it has taken for his case to be scheduled to appear before the Police Commission, and in a recent interview with ABC7’s Dan Noyes, he again articulated that he believes he did nothing wrong.
“These videos have been done inside the police department for many years,” Lewis told ABC7. “I’ve seen them starting from a young patrolman.”
In addition, Lewis and 17 other officers who received disciplinary action have previously accused former Police Chief Heather Fong of racial discrimination. In a $20 million dollar lawsuit filed in May 2007, the disgraced officers argued that Fong failed to suspend the Asian officers who appeared on camera in the videos, regardless of whether or not they had speaking parts. The Appeal is waiting to hear back from the city attorney’s office regarding the status of this case.
“I would like to know why 24 officers were picked and there wasn’t an Asian officer in that group,” San Francisco Police Officer James Aherne told ABC7 when the lawsuit was filed.
Meanwhile, Commissioner Risa Tom clarified that while the hearing is public because Officer Lewis signed a waiver allowing it to be an open session, it will be separate from the Police Commission’s usual weekly meetings. Instead of occurring during the 5:30pm meeting at City Hall tomorrow, the hearing between Lewis and one member of the Commission will be held at 9:00am.
“On a discipline like this one, it’s [the meeting] generally taking of evidence and then once it’s done transcripts have to be printed out and they wait two weeks and then it’s calendared before the full Commission,” Tom told the Appeal. “Then a decision to sustain or not sustain charges will go to the full Commission.”
Lewis told ABC7 that he is ready to make his case in front of the Police Commission representative, media members and the public.
“I’ve gone through many phases in four and a half years,” Lewis said. “I’ve been angry, become more resilient, want to fight.”