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. The agreement was that after the war, the Limited Tenor Officers would have the opportunity to take the next civil service exam, and upon passing, would be grandfathered in. The grandfathering never occurred.
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. The Black Officers were primarily assigned to Potrero Police Station (formerly known as the “Southeast Station,” and now Bayview Police Station). A few Black Police Officers were assigned to the Traffic Division, ultimately relegated to directing 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 assignments as “Solo” Motorcycle Officer, and the Police Mounted Patrol were denied and/or ignored.
Additionally, the absence of Asian, Latino and women was disturbing. 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.
A Black Police Officer was called to the Chief of Police’s Office where he was reprimanded by the Chief for speaking to young black men about a career in law enforcement. This occurred while the department claimed there were not more qualified Black Police Officer applicants.
Many of the Black Police Officers realizing that individually their efforts to integrate with upward mobility opportunities were futile at best. They decided that they needed to unify and formed an association which they agreed to and named, The Officers for Justice. They envisioned change.
In 1968, after forming, and being legally recognized, not much was changing. By 1973, the Officers for Justice made a pivotal decision 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 class action lawsuit was successful, and was filed in the Federal Court. In short, the City & County of San Francisco, and the San Francisco Police Department came under federal monitoring. The Federal monitor was appointed to oversee the department, to ensure that it was making future hiring policies reflect the racial make-up of the San Francisco Community. Total diversification.
The lawsuit first initiated by the Officers for Justice, changed the face of the San Francisco Police Department and is why today we have the diversity we have.