An anti-Black Lives Matter opinion article that labels an epidemic of police violence against blacks a “myth” has been posted inside a San Francisco police station for almost a week, possibly in violation of department and city rules that bar political activity in public buildings.
But the department says the opinion piece, hung at the Taraval Station in the Sunset District, isn’t political.
The Feb. 16 Wall Street Journal op-ed piece by Heather Mac Donald, titled “The Myths of Black Lives Matter,” has been, as of Tuesday, hung for four days on a bulletin board that displays department orders and officer assignments, among other things.
That means anytime the station’s 80 officers look at a sheet for their daily assignments, the piece is located inches away.
The article’s posting inside a police station comes during intense debates and protests about police reforms in The City following the killing of Mario Woods in December at the hands of San Francisco police. A series of racist text messages sent by a handful of officers, which were revealed in 2015 court filings, had already elevated tensions between the black community and police.
The opinion piece had pertinent sections highlighted like, “Forty percent of cop killers have been black” and “the Black Lives Matter movement has convinced Democrats and progressives that there is an epidemic of racist white police officers killing young black men.”
In the article, in a section that was not highlighted, Mac Donald goes on to ask, “But what if the Black Lives Matter movement is based on fiction? Not just the fictional account of the 2014 police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., but the utter misrepresentation of police shootings generally … You would think that killer cops pose the biggest threat to young black men today. But this perception, like almost everything else that many people think they know about fatal police shootings, is wrong.”
Mac Donald also says more white and hispanic people die at the hands of police than blacks, who are more likely to die from black-on-black crime than be killed by police. What’s more, she says police are more likely to be killed by blacks because criminal activity is more likely in poor minority communities.
Who posted the piece in the station remains unknown. However, only sergeants and lieutenants are allowed to post to the board, said Taraval Station Capt. Denise Flaherty, adding, “I haven’t read it.”
Department rules governing political activity bar most, if not all, political activity while on duty or in public buildings.
“Members shall not, while on duty or while acting as a representative of the Department, endorse political candidates or issues or participate in political campaigns,” according to the SFPD general order on the subject. “Members shall not place or cause to be placed politically oriented information in or on any Department building or equipment other than upon the bulletin board provided for the posting of general notices.”
City rules generally restrict political activity on city property as well, according to the City Attorney’s Office, and the posting of such an article inside a police station raises questions about what is and is not appropriate political activity versus free speech in police station.
Still, the department claims the article is not political, and therefore is not prohibited by city and department rules.
“[An] internal review shows that the posting was not political in nature, but was an opinion piece from the Wall Street Journal, dated February 12th, 2016,” noted a department statement.
Others have a different opinion about the article’s presence in a police station.
“I find it troubling,” said Sgt. Yulanda Williams, head of the department’s black officers association, when notified about the article’s posting inside a station.
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