Two more black San Francisco police officers have resigned from The City’s powerful police union, claiming the organization has failed to serve its minority members and continues to be a roadblock to reform and rebuilding trust with the community.
The San Francisco Police Officers’ Association has long been a vocal and at times divisive presence in city politics. While it never seems to back down from a perceived threat to its members, at times it’s full-throated presence has rankled those standing it its way.
One of those critics, the president of the black officers association Officers for Justice, tendered her resignation last week, and on Tuesday two more office holders in that organization have followed suit.
“It is our hope that others will join in solidarity in this intentional boycott to bring about the change that we so desperately need,” said Sgt. Yulanda Williams, the black officers association president who was first among the three to resign.
Williams cited the union’s history of failing to include minority officers in its leadership and decision making, and its continued failure to work toward healing wounds between the community and the Police Department, as reasons for her resigning from the union.
Last week, Williams wrote that “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.”
Nate Ballard, a representative of the union, said the organization had “no comment.”
But last week a POA statement on William’s departure was sent to the San Francisco Examiner.
“We do not agree with many of the statements made by Yulanda Williams in her resignation letter,” wrote POA President Martin Halloran in a statement. “We are certain that the vast majority of our members, including officers of color, do not agree with her either. We are committed to diversity in our ranks.”
This week’s resignations include Bayview Station Officer Monty Singleton, also OFJ’s vice president, and OFJ Secretary Joanne Walker, who is an officer at Park Station.
Singleton told the Examiner that he resigned for several reasons. The first reason was the union’s continued link to former head Gary Delagnes, who in May called SFPD sergeants “snitches” for reporting misconduct within the rank and file.
The second blow came when the union decided to chastise Colin Kaepernick, quarterback of the 49ers, for taking a knee during the National Anthem, said Singleton.
These two acts were compounded by leadership that has an “unsavory fog clouding the road signs between right, wrong and personal opinion,” said Singleton. “This combined with their apparent unwillingness to accept the hint of consideration for some internal improvements clearly represents an impasse in my willingness to actively be part of the POA organization at this time.”
Walker said she too had resigned but did not comment further.
While not a member of the union since he is in department management, Deputy Chief Mikail Ali — the only department brass who is black aside from Acting Chief Toney Chaplin — said the union has not historically had a diverse leadership.
“Historically we have seen a lack of diversity in the leadership of the POA,” Ali told the Examiner. “I’m not blaming them for the lack of significant representation of women and people of color in their leadership nor I’m I obsolving them of this historical and contemporary shortcoming. What I am doing is pointing out an obvious opportunity for the current and future leadership to prioritize.”
Williams has been one of the most vocal public critics of the union and the role it plays inside the department and in The City’s politics. After speaking at the District Attorney’s Blue Ribbon Panel about a culture of us against them led by the union, POA leaders attacked Williams in a letter to its members.
In response to the union’s critique of her statement, she told the Examiner in February that “it sends a clear message that when you go against what they believe in you are then considered an outsider, an outcast and they attempt to slander your name.”
After Williams was named in a series of racist text messages sent by a group of police, she increasingly began speaking out about the backward culture of the department, which she and others said was led by the POA.
With the union’s election coming up at the beginning of 2017, a leadership change could be on the horizon for the roughly 2,165-active member POA.