Prentice Earl Sanders was a member of the San Francisco Police Department from 1964 through 2003. He became the first African American chief of the department in 2002. (Courtesy SFPD).

Prentice Earl Sanders was a member of the San Francisco Police Department from 1964 through 2003. He became the first African American chief of the department in 2002. (Courtesy SFPD).

Prentice Earl Sanders, San Francisco’s first Black police chief, dies

Prentice Earl Sanders, the first Black chief of the San Francisco Police Department, has died, officials confirmed Monday. He was 83.

Sanders was appointed chief by former Mayor Willie Brown in 2002. He was a longtime homicide inspector who rose to the rank of assistant chief under former Chief Fred Lau in the 1990s.

Sanders is remembered as a trailblazer for African Americans in the department. Born in Texas, Sanders was one of only a few Black officers on the force when he joined in 1964.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, friends and all who knew him,” Police Chief Bill Scott said. “To all who did not, Chief Sanders should be remembered for a trailblazing legacy that went far beyond the barrier he broke as San Francisco’s first Black chief of police.”

Sanders was the first officer to testify in federal court about racism in the SFPD as part of a 1973 discrimination lawsuit against the department.

He was also one of the founding members of Officers for Justice, an association that represents Black officers.

“He was a true legend in his own right,” said acting Capt. Yulanda Williams, president of OFJ. “A visionary proponent for equity and justice for Black men and women in blue. We owe him a debt of gratitude, as many of us would not have our careers had it not been for brave, courageous leaders as he who sacrificed much in this noble profession.”

Sanders’ career was not without controversy. He was among the SFPD command staff members indicted by a grand jury in 2003 for allegedly covering up a fight involving off-duty officers over a bag of fajitas. He was later cleared of wrongdoing in the “Fajitagate” scandal.

mbarba@sfexaminer.com

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