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Black SFPD officer targeted by police union reassured by Chief Suhr

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Sgt. Yulanda Williams is president of Officers for Justice, a group that has pushed for stronger diversity in the Police Department for four decades. (Mike Koozmin/S.F. Examiner)

A San Francisco police officer targeted by the police union for speaking out about racism in the ranks, and who has said she fears for her safety on the beat, has been reassured by top department brass that the situation is being monitored.

Sgt. Yulanda Williams was the subject of a letter sent to all San Francisco Police Officer Association members in late January. The letter said the union didn’t like some of the comments Williams has made about racism in department ranks.

After the letter was sent, Williams said she feared for her safety on the beat because officers who go against the union can find themselves ostracized and even left hanging when they call for backup.

Several police commissioners voiced concern over the issue Wednesday night, including president Suzy Loftus who asked the chief to speak on the matter.

“That is very, very troubling,” said Loftus about the San Francisco Examiner’s story on the matter. “I feel that sometimes these articles hang out there without a public response.”

Chief Greg Suhr said he is monitoring the situation and has been in contact with Williams, who heads the black officers association, the Officers for Justice.

“Officer Williams has been contacted and asked about to what degree she feels comfortable or uncomfortable, and at this point in time she prefers to remain in her assignment,” he said. “If she would like to be put in a different assignment for any reason at all, she just merely needs to say the words.”

Williams said she is glad Suhr and the commission have taken the issue seriously. “He did assure me that he supports me and he is willing to allow me to decide If I want to stay at my current assignment or move,” she said.

Meanwhile, despite the POA’s letter, she feels supported by her captain and station.

Williams was one of two black officers mentioned by name in the series of racist text messages sent by a group of officers that emerged last year in court filings.

She’s also one of the only active duty officers who has publicly participated in the Blue Ribbon Panel on police bias formed by District Attorney George Gascon in the wake of San Francisco Police Department scandals.

Such comments from Williams are not new, but her most recent statements sparked a strong response from the POA.

The Jan. 22 letter from POA president Martin Halloran was addressed to all dues-paying members.

“The POA is disturbed about some of your comments and accusations: For example, you claim that racism is ‘widespread’ within our department,” noted the letter. “The POA disagrees. While a handful of officers engaged in racist and homophobic text messaging — and were condemned for doing so by the [POA] and by me personally — there is no evidence that racism is widespread throughout the department.”

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