San Francisco's district attorney has appointed three retired judges to review the integrity of 3,000 arrests involving more than a dozen police officers who engaged in racist and homophobic text messages, his office said on Thursday.
District Attorney George Gascón said the officers' actions compromised public trust in law enforcement.
The move to appoint the three jurists, who include former California Supreme Court Associate Justice Cruz Reynoso, is aimed at helping restore public faith in police, Gascón said in a statement.
The controversy over the text messages among San Francisco police officers comes amid a series of fatal police confrontations across the country that have put law enforcement agencies under scrutiny over the use of lethal force, especially against minorities, the poor and the mentally ill.
Gascón's office has identified 3,000 arrests going back several years that involved officers who engaged in the texts.
By the end of the year, the judicial panel is expected to review all the arrests and produce a report on whether bias played a role in any resulting prosecution or conviction, Gascón said.
"If just one individual was wrongfully imprisoned because of bias on the part of these officers, that's one too many," he said.
In one text message, former San Francisco Police Sergeant Ian Furminger wrote: "Cross burning lowers blood pressure!" according to court documents.
The court papers show Furminger also bragged in texts that a relative was a slave auctioneer, joked about the Ku Klux Klan and insulted Latinos.
Others, among the 14 officers who received the messages on their phones, texted such responses as "White Power" and wrote homophobic messages.
The president of the San Francisco Police Officers Association did not return calls seeking comment.
Last month, San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr announced that all 14 of the officers engaged in the text messages, which he found violated his department's policies to varying degrees.
Suhr has asked the local Police Commission to fire seven officers and indicated that six others faced lesser discipline. One of the 14 officers has resigned.
Furminger and another officer were convicted in federal court in December of conspiracy to violate civil rights and other charges after they were found to have stolen items seized in investigations. Furminger, who was fired as a result of that probe, is not counted among the 14 officers who Suhr found should be disciplined.