Bay Area/ San Francisco/ Crime & Emergencies
Published on April 26, 2016
Public Defender Releases Racist Texts Sent By Former Taraval Station Officer Jason Lai [Updated]Taraval Station (Photo: Google Maps)

Today, Jeff Adachi of the public defender's office revealed the contents of the racist and bigoted texts allegedly sent by ex-Taraval Officer Jason Lai. As a result of those texts, 207 cases will be reviewed and examined for bias, including three murder cases.

As we previously covered, the texts first emerged during an investigation of Lai for the sexual assault of a Sunset District woman. While the investigation determined that there was not enough evidence to prosecute Lai on charges of sexual assault and rape, he was arrested in March of 2016 for "violations related to use and access to confidential criminal information and motor vehicle records."

Throughout the texts released by the public defender’s office, Lai uses derogatory language against African-Americans, Indians, Latinos, and LGBT people.

Booking photo of Officer Jason Lai of Taraval Station. (Photo: SFPD)

In one text, he writes, “Ghetto n*** burning down their own city wtf.” In another, he says, “Indian ppl are disgusting.” Another text states, “I hate that beaner,” a racial slur for Mexicans.

He also refers to “trannies,” “lesbos,” “fags,” and “hock gwai,” a transliteration of “hak gwai,” a derogatory Cantonese term for blacks. Another text refers to “hock mui,” (Cantonese for black women), with Lai saying, “hock mui’s piss me off.”

“It is chilling how casually former officer Lai dehumanizes the citizens he was sworn to serve,” Adachi says. “He wished violence upon the very people he was being paid to protect and none of his colleagues turned him in.”

Two of those colleagues, Curtis Liu and Keith Ybaretta, are also under investigation. Curtis Liu, who was also based at Taraval Station, resigned from the force on allegations that he tipped Lai off on the investigation against him.

The release of the text messages comes at a time where accusations of racism and police brutality have roiled the SFPD. A previous scandal saw 14 police officers investigated in a separate investigation on racist texts. And in response to the police shootings of Luis Gongora, Alex Nieto, and Mario Woods, a group of protesters have started a hunger strike demanding the resignations of Mayor Ed Lee and Police Chief Greg Suhr. The hunger strike is now in its sixth day.

“It would be naive to believe these officers’ bigotry was reserved solely for text messages,” says Adachi. “It is a window into the biases they harbored. It likely influenced who they stopped, who they searched, who they arrested, and how they testified in criminal trials.”

"Any officer who engages in such reprehensible racist and homophobic remarks will be held accountable and swiftly dealt with," Chief Suhr stated in a response. "These views are clearly incompatible with the character required of being a police officer. We will not allow officers capable of such conduct to sully the good name of the San Francisco Police Department and what we stand for." 

Updated 4/27, 2:59pm:

According to the District Attorney's office, former SFPD lieutenant Liu has now been charged with "obstructing a rape investigation involving another San Francisco Police Officer [ed. note: Jason Lai] by making false and misleading statements and withholding key information from officers who were investigating the rape allegations."