A San Francisco Police officer, who in May 2017 threatened to call immigration authorities on a group of Asian and Latino men, saying, “we’re going to ship everyone back to their own country,” violated a slew of department policies, according to a report by the Department of Police Accountability.
The officer, Joshua N. Fry, retired before he could be disciplined, Mission Local has learned.
Fry is the first SFPD officer the Department of Police Accountability, which investigates officer misconduct, has conclusively found to have “engaged in biased policing based on national origin,” said Paul Henderson, director of the DPA, without specifically mentioning Fry by name.
The findings were contained in the Department of Police Accountability’s newly published 2018 annual report. Though the report doesn’t specifically name the officer, a source confirmed the officer was Fry. The report illustrates how infrequently officers are actually disciplined.
Between July 2017 and December 2018, the DPA found overwhelming evidence of misconduct in 79 cases involving 130 officers and recommended discipline in all of those cases, according to its annual report. Only 47 officers, however, were disciplined.
The vast majority of those decisions were made by Chief Bill Scott, and he meted out consequences ranging from written reprimands to 10-day suspensions. Those he decided against penalizing included an SFPD sergeant who, in July 2017, obstructed a skateboarder speeding down Dolores Street, causing the skateboarder to fall and sustain major injuries.
When the DPA recommends a firing or a suspension of more than 10 days, Chief Scott sends his recommendation to the Police Commission for a final decision. He sent two cases to the Police Commission for the same 18-month period. Those cases, both pertaining to police shootings, are awaiting the commission’s decision.
It’s unclear if Fry, the officer who threatened bystanders with deportation, would have faced his recommended five-day suspension because he left in early 2018 before the chief could discipline him.
The report, however, referred directly to the incident: “The DPA concluded its investigation into a complaint regarding video footage published by NBC Bay Area that showed a plainclothes SFPD officer threatening individuals with deportation.”
Indeed, in June 2017, NBC Bay Area’s Investigative Unit captured Fry’s threats and remarks on video. The team inadvertently captured the interaction during an unrelated “hidden camera investigation” into black-market street vendors.
“I’ve been taking your picture,” Fry told one of the men standing with other minorities at Seventh and Market streets. Fry pointed to one of the men and warned. “We’re taking a lot of pictures. We have some fun shit coming for you guys, just wait.”
“I don’t do nothing, why do you take picture of me?” one of the men asked.
“Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, wait ‘til we get INS [Immigration and Naturalization Services] involved in here too, it’s going to be awesome,” Fry responded. “We’re going to ship everybody back to their own country.”
Fry, who has since resigned, violated six department policies during his interaction with the group of men on Seventh and Market Streets. Those charges included failing to comply with the department’s immigration enforcement policy, inappropriate comments and behavior, and “biased policing based on race and national identity.”
An article in the February 2018 edition of the San Francisco Police Officers Association Journal about Fry’s retirement, described Fry as “one of the truly good guys,” who was returning to work as a firefighter in Omaha. Fry couldn’t be reached for comment.
“The reasons for his major career decision were family and personal oriented and tough to do,” wrote Paul Chignell, the POA’s legal defense administrator and a former police captain.
Chignell added that Fry was “a cut above the rest.”
“There are quite a number of officers whom I have talked to … in recent days who have stated that this is a loss for the SFPD to have Josh leave,” he wrote.
For many, however, the footage of Fry’s comments offered a chilling reminder of ongoing racial bias in the department.
Two separate scandals beginning in 2015, in which officers were discovered to be exchanging racist, homophobic, and sexist text messages prompted two independent reviews of the department. Both investigations, one by the U.S. Department of Justice and the other by the San Francisco District Attorney’s Blue Ribbon Panel, discovered persistent racial bias in the department’s culture.
Fry’s May 2017 encounter with the immigrants occurred after the department’s ongoing reform effort kicked off in February 2016.
The SFPD is still working to update its “policing without bias” policy, which was originally implemented in 2011 and one of the policies Fry was found to have violated. It was not the first time Fry was caught up in complaints.
He was also identified as an officer caught on video getting into a physical confrontation with activist and rapper Debray “Fly Benzo” Carpenter. Fry had reportedly unplugged a boom box playing loud music and slapped a cell phone Carpenter was using to record the officer out of his hand.