In the wake of a series of homophobic and racist text messages exchanged between San Francisco police officers — not to mention several racially charged police-involved shooting deaths — the head of San Francisco's police union has been engaged in a campaign to prove that racial bias does not exist among city cops.
In his latest effort to do just that, Martin Halloran would like you to know that he knows black people. He grew up with them. At one point, his mother even took in two African-American children.
“I recall my brothers and I playing with these children as though they were part of our family,” Halloran wrote last week in a sworn statement. “Interacting with different ethnicities was the norm in my childhood.”
This trip down memory lane was Halloran's contribution to a panel formed by District Attorney George Gascón, S.F.'s former police chief, to suss out racism and other potential bias in the police department. Instead of testifying before three judges on the Blue Ribbon Panel on Transparency, Accountability and Fairness in Law Enforcement, Halloran offered the statement to show the Police Officers Association is part of “the San Francisco community,” despite the recent statement to the panel of a black officer who claimed otherwise.
“They don't live in the community and they don't have a business in the community, so they don't understand what is inherently going on and what has festered for generations,” Sgt. Yulanda Williams, a longtime cop and president of cops-of-color advocacy group Officers For Justice, told the panel in January.
Williams also accused the POA of being “insensitive” to the needs of minority officers, disrespectful to Board of Supervisors President London Breed — who is black — and antagonistic to disenfranchised communities with its public service advertisements.
“They just don't get it,” Williams said. “They have shown that they have very much disregard for black officers in particular, and they have shown that they have disregard for minority communities.”
While POA leaders have indeed fired off tersely written letters to black elected officials, Halloran last week said Williams's impression is false. He's also condemned the bigoted text messages — which, he noted, were sent while Gascón was police chief.
In an another apparent attempt to redirect claims of racism toward Gascón, Halloran backed up an allegation made last week by POA consultant Gary Delagnes, the union's former boss, saying Gascón “disparaged minorities” while drunk at a dinner in 2010.
While that reflects badly on the District Attorney — whose dive into the police department has not won him any friends at station houses — it doesn't help cops' case, either: If Gascón did spew racism six years ago, he did so while still chief of police.