San Francisco is being accused of systemic race-based discrimination in a lawsuit filed by 13 white police officers, who say they were passed over for promotion by the local police department because they are white.
The San Francisco Police Department “has a pattern of promoting lower-scoring candidates over higher-scoring candidates when promoting candidates to Sergeant, Lieutenant, and Captain,” according to the 24-page complaint, a copy of which was obtained by The Epoch Times. The complaint was filed June 11 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California by Fresno-based attorney M. Greg Mullanax.
The city claims it did nothing wrong.
John Coté, a spokesman for City Attorney Dennis Herrera, told reporters the SFPD “uses lawful, merit-based civil service examinations in making promotions.” The system used is “designed to provide qualified individuals with the chance for advancement while ensuring fair treatment without regard to race, gender, religion, age, or other status.”
But the SFPD has a long history of racial run-ins with its employees, according to a summary prepared by the San Francisco Chronicle.
In 1973, an organization representing black and female police officers sued the department for discriminating against them in the hiring and promotion process. The city settled in 1979, promising to behave better by, among other things, “banding” promotion test results “so that all candidates who scored within a certain range were treated the same, allowing them to be judged on other factors such as experience and language skills.”
Banding was upheld by federal courts in 1992, when the San Francisco Police Officers Association (POA) sued, claiming the practice amounted to anti-white discrimination, the summary states.
The U.S. Department of Justice reviewed police records in 2016 and praised the SFPD for boosting workforce diversity to almost 49 percent nonwhites and 15 percent women, both above nationwide averages. The settlement from 1979 had lapsed in 1998.
“The city—to this day—has a long-standing practice and custom of discriminating against white males in SFPD promotions to the rank of Sergeant, Lieutenant, and Captain,” Mullanax wrote in the legal complaint.
“A disturbing pattern emerges from SFPD’s promotional scheme because it shows that lower-scoring African-American and female candidates are the primary beneficiaries of SFPD’s illegal promotion process.”
The complaint notes that a local investigative body called The Blue Ribbon Panel on Transparency, Accountability, and Fairness in Law Enforcement found in July 2016 that “the absence of rules governing the selection of promotional candidates and the discretion held by the Chief, along with the lack of programs offering support to those seeking promotions, raises the likelihood of bias or favoritism in promotional decisions.”
There is also evidence suggesting the SFPD prioritized the color of its employees’ skin over competence. Former Police Chief Greg Suhr, who resigned in May 2016, said it was his goal “to ‘force the door open’ for minority applicants and get a more diverse set of recruits,” according to the panel’s report.
Federal authorities also weighed in on SFPD practices.
The Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, or COPS, within the U.S. Department of Justice found in October 2016 that the department’s “promotion process is not transparent” and that “this lack of transparency created a distrust in segments of the SFPD,” the complaint states.
The San Francisco Police Officers Association contacted both the San Francisco Civil Service Commission and the Equal Employment Opportunity Division of the Department of Human Resources “on different occasions raising POA members’ concerns about the promotion process, but the POA never received any substantive responses,” according to the complaint.
Making matters worse, “some of those passed over for promotion met with Chief [of Police William] Scott to discuss the issue, but none of them received a substantive answer or response to their questions and concerns.”
“All outreaches by plaintiffs and others on their behalf have been rebuffed or ignored and morale is suffering,” the complaint states. “It is this pernicious atmosphere of confusion, obfuscation and blatant discrimination that compelled plaintiffs to file this lawsuit.”
The plaintiffs seek court-enforced promotions and damages, including punitive damages against the current chief of police and his predecessor. They claim their constitutional rights, as well as federal and state laws barring discrimination, were violated.
The plaintiffs are identified as Frederick (Ric) Schiff, Glenn Brakel, Alice Dicroce, Brian Greer, Clayton Harmston, Steven Haskell, Micah Hope, Daniel Kelly, Alexander Lentz, Brandon McKelley, Gerald Newbeck, David O’Keeffe, and Thomas Walsh.
Schiff, a police lieutenant in the new lawsuit, previously sued in 2003 alongside a dozen other fellow officers who claimed to have been unfairly passed over for promotion. The city reportedly settled the lawsuit for $1.6 million—$200,000 of which went to Schiff—without admitting wrongdoing.