The latest round of police promotions has prompted San Francisco’s police union to call for a change in the process over concerns that Chief Bill Scott has too much discretion over who rises in the ranks.
The San Francisco Police Officers Association blasted the process as “unfair and illegal” in a letter to Scott last Monday after the chief passed over some officers who scored high on promotional exams in favor of cops with lower test results.
Under rules from the Civil Service Commission, the chief can consider so-called secondary criteria including work experience, training and prior discipline when deciding between officers for promotion.
But SFPOA President Tony Montoya said the additional considerations can open the door to nepotism and cronyism. Montoya is calling for officers to be promoted in order of who scored the highest on the exams.
“You have people who scored exceptionally high that are getting passed over for no apparent reason,” Montoya said Thursday.
Scott announced the promotions of six lieutenants to captain, 15 sergeants to lieutenants and 45 officers to sergeants in recent weeks, according to department bulletins obtained by the San Francisco Examiner.
The chief defended the promotion process after a press conference Wednesday. He told reporters that the secondary criteria provides “everybody” with an opportunity and helps to evaluate “what the department’s needs are.”
“Those are the rules and I definitely understand the frustration,” Scott said. “But also we do have rules that we follow and they are there for a reason.”
The union’s letter was first reported by ABC7.
Montoya said rank-and-file officers have urged the union to file a lawsuit over allegations of so-called “reverse discrimination” in the latest round of promotions.
Montoya said the department passed over high-scoring white officers for officers of color who scored worse on promotional exams. He described a “dark cloud of suspicion over the whole process” and claimed that the department may have considered race and gender as factors for promotion, which would be illegal.
“Race is always a touchy issue and I don’t even want to walk down that road, but that is what I’m hearing from my members,” Montoya said.
The chief denied using race and gender as factors.
“We are a diverse city and we need to be a diverse police department,” Scott said. “But race and gender is not a criteria in terms of selecting people.”
Scott released demographic information on the captain and lieutenant promotions at the Police Commission earlier this month.
Of the captain promotions, two were women and two were men. Both of the women were white while one man was white, one man was Asian, one man was African American and one man was hispanic.
Of the 15 lieutenant promotions, three were women and 12 were men. One woman was African American, one woman was hispanic and one woman was white. Two of the men were hispanic and ten were white.