During World War II, the San Francisco Police Department hired approximately six (6) Black police officers. But they were hired as limited tenor officers, as opposed to permanent civil service police officers. What this meant was that after the emergency (the end of the war) they could have been grandfathered in after taking and passing the next civil service police examination. Needless to say, they were never grandfathered into the police department.
It was not until 1948 that the San Francisco Police Department hired the first civil service police officer. By 1955, the San Francisco Police Department had hired only eleven (11) black officers. Almost all Black police officers were segregated from the White officers; having been assigned to Potrero Police Station (formerly known as the “Southeast Station” now Bayview Police Station). A few Black police officers were assigned to the Traffic Division and directed traffic in Downtown San Francisco.
Opportunities for Blacks police officers to be appointed to work in the Bureau of Inspectors were almost nonexistent. This meant they could not serve as investigators in such units as Homicide, Burglary, Auto Theft, Robbery, Missing Persons, Juvenile Bureau, etc. Requests for Solo Motorcycle and the Police Mounted Patrol were denied or ignored.
Additionally, there was a very glaring absence of Asian, Latino and women. In essence, the San Francisco Police Department failed in its recruitment and hiring practice to hire minorities that would reflect the racial make-up of the City & County of San Francisco. It appears the administration was immune to the minority community leaders’ plea for changes. At least one Black police officer was called to the Chief of Police’s Officer where he was reprimanded personally by the Chief for giving a talk at a Community Center to a group of young Black men about career opportunities in the San Francisco Police Department. This happened while the department claimed there were not more Black police officers and they could not locate ant “qualified” candidates. Other efforts by the few minority officers to integrate the department were met without much success.
Finally, some of the Black police officers realizing that individually, their efforts to integrate with upward mobility opportunities were making very little change, if at all. It was decided that they needed to get together and form an association which they agreed to and named, The Officers For Justice. They envisioned change.
The time was about 1968, evening after forming and being legally recognized, not much was changing. By 1973, the Officers For Justice decided to sue the City & County of San Francisco, the San Francisco Police Department, and the Civil Service Commission for its failure to recruit and hire minorities. Announcement of the suit opened the flood gates and overnight the Officer For Justice’s lawsuit was joined by the National Organization of Women, Chinese For Affirmative Action, the NAACP and other Latino and Japanese community organizations. The San Francisco Police Officers’ Association (SFPOA) wanted to become involved and joined the suit against the Officers For Justice. The SFPOA sided with the City & County of San Francisco.
Our lawsuit was successful. It was filed in the Federal Court and was a class action suit. In short, the City & County of San Francisco and the San Francisco Police Department came under federal monitor whose responsibility was to monitor the department. The federal monitor was appointed to monitor the department making sure that the department’s future hiring policies would from now on reflect the racial make-up of the San Francisco Community. In other words, total diversification.
It is because, that lawsuit, initiated first by the Officers For Justice, changed the face of the San Francisco Police Department and why today, you have had two (2) Asian Chiefs, one whom was a woman, and one Black Chief of Police. Today, you have, or have had various racial, gender and LGBT officers in the ranks of Deputy Chief, Commanders, Captains, several Lieutenants, Sergeants and Inspectors.
Officers For Justice started the ball rolling and with the help of other community organization –and change came about.
Written By: Rodney Williams
“And to this day based on the sacrifices made by our founding fathers, we will remain faithful to our members and our community.”
̶ Sgt. Yulanda Williams, President