Sgt. Yulanda Williams. (Mike Koozmin/2015 S.F. Examiner)

Black SFPD leader resigns from union, says leadership is reactionary

The leader of San Francisco’s black officers organization resigned from the powerful Police Officers Association on Friday, accusing the the union of failing to address minority issues and promoting recalcitrant and backward approaches to police reform and minority concerns in and outside of the Police Department.

The resignation and condemnation of the union’s leadership, including President Martin Halloran, came from Officers For Justice President Sgt. Yulanda Williams, who noted that the union’s purported lack of sensitivity in recent years is compounded in the fact that no women or people of color are on the union’s executive board.

“Your organization does not demonstrate sensitivity or a willingness to adjust its value based upon the needs of other ethnicities within this department,” wrote Williams. “As an organizational union leader this is unacceptable conduct and leads to confusion and dysfunction.”

She continued, “As a dues paying member of 27 years, and a woman of color, I can no longer endure the SFPOA’s exhibitions of insensitivity, narrow-mindedness and refusal to respect other philosophical viewpoints.”

Williams and the POA have been at odds for some time — she was one of a handful of officers who spoke publicly at the District Attorney’s Blue Ribbon Panel about what she said was a backward culture — but the last straw came after Halloran said to Williams in June that if she doesn’t like how the union is run she is free to leave in November, one of the two times of year one can renew their membership.

Now she has done just that.

While she did not mention it in her letter, Williams told the San Francisco Examiner that the union’s donation to the Republican Party — and by extension to Donald Trump’s election as the head of that party — is one more reason for her to separate herself from the union until new leadership takes the helm.

The POA, which previously criticized Williams for speaking before the panel, said in a statement the organization is committed to promoting diversity.

Members of the San Francisco Police Officers Association, including president Martin Halloran, fourth from right, at a Jan. 20 Police Commission meeting in solidarity with officers who shot and killed Mario Woods. (Ekevara Kitpowsong/Special to S.F. Examiner)
Members of the San Francisco Police Officers Association, including president Martin Halloran, fourth from right, at a Jan. 20 Police Commission meeting in solidarity with officers who shot and killed Mario Woods. (Ekevara Kitpowsong/Special to S.F. Examiner)

“We do not agree with many of the statements made by Yulanda Williams in her resignation letter,” wrote Halloran in a statement. “We are certain that the vast majority of our members, including officers of color, do not agree with her either.”

The statement continues, “We are committed to diversity in our ranks. Just yesterday I received a call from Rev. Amos Brown, thanking us for our support of Chief Toney Chaplin and for our support of the NAACP — so we are confused by her claims.”

For much of the past two years the union has been at odds with some of the efforts to reform the Police Department and even bullied several supervisors for their possible support of a resolution comparing San Francisco to Ferguson, MO.

In mid July, the Blue Ribbon Panel on Transparency, Accountability, and Fairness in Law Enforcement said the POA essentially runs the department through a culture of “us against them” by attacking any opponents.

“The findings from this report show that the San Francisco Police Department, for all practical purposes, is really run by the POA,” said Judge LaDoris Cordell at the time.

View William’s resignation letter here: yulanda-resignation

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