Cops in Los Angeles and San Francisco are under fire after their racist, Islamophobic, and homophobic text messages and emails were made public.
Law enforcement officials from both departments have promised anti-bias reforms after their officers became caught up in the scandals.
Tom Angel, Los Angeles County Sheriff Department's former chief of staff, resigned on Sunday over emails he sent from his work account while at his previous job with the Burbank Police Department.
The Los Angeles Times was able to obtain copies of the emails through the state's open records laws.
In one email, Angel forwards a chain letter with the subject line "How dumb is dumb?" The email reels off 20 reasons "Muslim terrorists are so quick to commit suicide," including "You can't wash off the smell of donkey," "your wife smells worse than your donkey," and "towels for hats." Another email says that Americans who believe racially profiling Muslims is wrong are "insulated from reality."
In another, Angel forwards a message saying, "I took my biology exam last Friday. I was asked to name two things commonly found in cells. Apparently "Blacks" and Mexicans was NOT the correct answer."
Angel did not respond to VICE News' request for comment, but he did previously tell the Los Angeles Times that he "did not mean to embarrass or demean anyone" and that it "was unfortunate that his work emails could be obtained by the public under the state's record laws."
"This incident is one that I find deeply troubling, Sheriff Jim McDonnell said in a statement.
"Despite the Sheriff's Department's many efforts to fortify public trust and enhance internal and external accountability and transparency, this incident reminds us that we and other law enforcement agencies still have work to do."
McDonnell added that he would accept Angel's resignation and he hoped to turn the scandal into a "learning opportunity" for other members of his staff.
Angel sent the incriminating emails in 2012 and 2013, when he was the number two police official in Burbank. He had been appointed to restore the department, which had been embroiled in a number of scandals involving allegations of gross misconduct, like brutality, racism, and harassment.
Meanwhile, a similar scandal has been unfolding in San Francisco. Criminal probes of three officers revealed racist and homophobic text exchanges, all tied to one the cell phone of one officer, Jason Lai. Six pages of slur-filled messages sent by the three officers, and fourth who has yet to be named, were obtained and then shared by the city's public defender last week.
The messages bash black, Indian, Muslim, homeless, gay, and transgender people.
"Indian ppl are disgusting" one text reads. "Burn down walgreens and kill the bums" another says. The officers also describe minorities as "wild animals on the loose."
In a second batch of emails, which San Francisco police chief Greg Suhr handed over to the Associated Press, the officers mock black people in Ferguson, Missouri, where police shot and killed an unarmed black man in 2014.
Suhr, joined by religious and minority community leaders, announced at a press conference on Friday that all officers in the department will be ordered to complete an anti-harassment class by the end of May.
Public Defender Jeff Adachi said the messages first came to light in a separate police probe of sexual assault allegations against Lai. The San Francisco District Attorney's Office ultimately charged Lai with six misdemeanor counts of unlawful access and use of criminal and Department of Motor Vehicle information.
Lt. Curtis Liu was also implicated in the texts, but retired last year. A third unidentified officer has resigned, and the fourth unnamed officer faces dismissal.
Adachi expects the messages to have wide repercussions, and could affect more than 200 criminal cases, including three murders.
"It is chilling how casually former officer Lai dehumanizes the citizens he was sworn to serve," Adachi said in a statement. "He wished violence upon the very people he was being paid to protect and none of his colleagues turned him in."
The San Francisco Police Department was embroiled in a similar scandal in 2014 when a probe into police corruption implicated 14 officers exchanging racist and homophobic messages.
George Gascon, the San Francisco District Attorney, wanted to know how deep racism ran within the department.
"In the process of looking at the text messages, increasingly I became uneasy that this may not be localized to the 14 officers that were being reported, but that we may have some systemic issues," Gascon told CBS last year.
"This was an isolated incident," San Francisco Police spokesman Albie Esparza said in response to Gascon's investigation, disputing the idea that the 2,100 strong police force could be infected with systemic racism.
"To say it's systemic is unfounded," Esparza said.
Both scandals suggest that California's major police departments have a while to go before they can shake off their long-standing reputations for hiring racist cops –– a popular conception that has existed since the Rodney King riots and the OJ Simpson investigation.
Last year, the US Department of Justice launched a collaborative review of the SFPD's practices after police shot and killed Mario Woods, a black stabbing suspect who was not carrying a gun.An autopsy determined that Woods had 20 bullet wounds. A number of officer-involved incidents in Los Angeles were sources of controversy last year, including cops shooting a homeless man dead on Skid Row.