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)

Reform panel: SF police union’s misinformation campaign continues

The San Francisco police union’s ongoing effort to discredit a panel on police bias has now taken aim at the body for seemingly not allowing several hand-picked black officers from testifying and countering negative characterizations of the department.

But the Police Officers Association’s misinformation campaign is getting old, says the body’s head.

“This is indicative of the game playing and waste of time the POA has been playing since the beginning,” Anand Subramanian, head of the Blue Ribbon Panel, told the San Francisco Examiner on Wednesday. “The way they operate, the tactics they use…shows they cannot be taken seriously.”

Since its inception last year, the panel –- created by District Attorney George Gascon after news emerged of the racist text messages that were sent by 14 officers — has been under fire from the politically powerful POA.

The union’s latest missive claims that panel officials denied the union’s request to let several black officers speak.

“How can you really hold your Panel out to be fair and impartial if you refuse to allow the testimony of Sgt. Tracy McCray, Inspector Clifford Cook, and Former Cmdr. Leroy Lindo, three African American officers who dispute Sgt. [Yulanda] Williams’s skewed views about the Police Department?”

Williams, the president of Officers for Justice, a black officers association, testified that the San Francisco police culture has demonstrated its racial biases as was seen in a series of racist text messages uncovered last year.

The union subsequently attacked Williams for her statement in a letter distributed to all its roughly 2,200 members.

Subramanian said the union’s latest claims are simply untrue. Martin Halloran, who heads the union, was invited to speak to the panel twice but declined, said Subramanian. What’s more, the officers mentioned have spoken in closed interviews with the panel as have others.

Subramanian added the panel will not take direction on how it operates from the union.

“The real irony is that the POA blocked our access to officers and is now complaining that they we will not talk to officers in the way that they demand,” Subramanian said, alluding to a letter sent to union members saying officers should come to the POA before talking to the panel.

As part of its latest public relations campaign, the union has blamed Gascon for rising property crimes because of his backing of Prop. 47 and hired a consultant, Nathan Ballard, to head up its efforts opposing police reform in The City. As part of this recent campaign against the DA and the panel, two union leaders said in statements made to their own lawyers that they had seen Gascon make racist remarks himself in a Massachusetts bar several years ago.

The district attorney’s office has denied Gascon made such remarks. Gascon, a former chief of the San Francisco Police Department, has previously said the department is insular and has officers who are racially biased.

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