San Francisco’s police union has called on its members to show up at Wednesday’s police commission in force to support the officers who were involved in the December shooting death of Mario Woods.
A letter was sent to all active Police Officers Association members Jan. 16 asking for “a strong showing” Wednesday night to ensure the commission remains impartial despite attacks on law enforcement from some politicians and others.
“I am writing to all active POA members to request a show of support by officers at the next police commission meeting. We are asking our members to show support for our brothers and sisters involved in the recent officer involved shootings in the Bayview district,” wrote union President Martin Halloran in his plea. “Our profession is under attack nationally, and especially here in San Francisco.”
The union’s request comes as protesters and activists have been calling for Mayor Ed Lee to fire Police Chief Greg Suhr and for the prosecution of the five officers who were involved in the killing of Woods last month.
Suhr has specifically come under fire for his previous handling of a racist text scandal last year and more recently for comments he made after the Woods killing that some say sounded as if he thought the shooting was justified.
Meanwhile, the union’s president has taken a strong position on the Woods killing, saying in the January issue of the union’s monthly journal that preliminary information released by the department indicates that “these officers were forced into an impossible situation with an armed suspect who allegedly stabbed an innocent victim less than a half hour earlier. These officers exhausted all forms of less lethal force and were forced, by the suspect, to discharge their firearms.”
Seemingly in contradiction to his statement about the shooting, Halloran wrote in the same journal article that no judgment should be taken until the three separate investigations into the shooting are complete.
Former union head and current POA political consultant Gary Delagnes has been equally vocal when it comes to the Woods shooting, making some see him as an unwelcome lightning rod in an already tense debate.
At a University of San Francisco forum about policing and race held in early January, Delagnes said that Woods’ last words to the first officer who opened fire were: “You’d better take me out because I’m not going back.”
The statement could not be independently verified.
Delagnes also said that he has never met a racist police officer in San Francisco and that shootings are much more complicated than any video clip –such as the one that recorded Wood’s death– seems.
“I’ve been stabbed twice because I waited too long,” Delagnes said, referencing claims by some that the five officers involved in the Woods shooting should have tried take the knife away.
But not all officers in the department plan to attend Wednesday’s commission meeting, said Yulanda Williams who heads the Officers for Justice, a black officers association.
Delagnes, Halloran and the union have repeatedly made inflammatory statements about race and policing that have done little to improve the tensions following Woods’ death, said Williams.
“They don’t understand. They don’t involve themselves routinely on a daily basis with minority communities,” Williams said about the union. “He (Delagnes) doesn’t speak for me and I know for the majority for our members he doesn’t speak for us. He’s a very biased man.”
Delagnes did not respond to a request for comment.
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