San Francisco PD unveils new 'Black lives matter' posters to be placed in stations

A directive calls on every police station in the city to install one of the posters

By Megan Cassidy
San Francisco Chronicle

SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco police will soon display a splash of new and historic artwork on department properties, with “Black lives matter” posters set to be placed at headquarters and in stations throughout the city.

Police Chief Bill Scott and police Commissioners Damali Taylor and Dion-Jay Brookter unveiled the new design Wednesday, nearly a month after commissioners on July 15 unanimously voted to require such banners on station walls.

The 'Black lives matter' poster that's mandated to be displayed in every San Francisco police station.
The 'Black lives matter' poster that's mandated to be displayed in every San Francisco police station. (Photo/San Francisco Police Department)

Brookter, who sponsored the resolution, said the gesture was driven by the city’s Black community, which data show has been disproportionately impacted by police violence in San Francisco and nationwide.

“Given light of everything that was going on, with Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, they said here in San Francisco, we want a sign,” Brookter said in a Zoom news conference Wednesday afternoon. “We want a symbol, that our Police Department stands with us as Black individuals here in San Francisco.”

The police killings this year of Taylor in Louisville, Ky., and Floyd in Minneapolis, have added a new urgency to the nationwide discussion on systemic racism against Black people. Waves of protesters have taken to the city streets for months to demand an end to police brutality. The reckoning has additionally turned up the heat on city leaders, who are under increasing pressure to “defund” police forces and reinvest in Black communities.

Chief Scott, who is Black and has publicly supported defunding measures, said the department embraced the poster idea from the start, noting that it was a chance to put the officers’ values on display.

San Francisco Chief of Police Bill Scott stands with a 'Black lives matter' poster.
San Francisco Chief of Police Bill Scott stands with a 'Black lives matter' poster. (Photo/San Francisco Police Department)

The oat-colored poster features the phrase “Black lives matter” emblazoned in the largest font, while adding that they specifically matter “to the San Francisco Police Department.” The posters say Black lives matter, without a capital “L” or “M,” which is commonly associated with a decentralized movement calling for political change.

The sign further states a “reaffirmation of our values” and personal statements from the department’s bureaus and stations. Over the past 30 days, Scott said, “every corner” of the Police Department was asked to submit a statement about why the words “Black lives matter” to them.

“There has been systematic oppression for so long that it is time for a change,” the Richmond District Station wrote. “Equality is required by all and for all.”

The officers of the Bayview Station, which serves San Francisco’s largest Black community, wrote that they “choose to be so assigned to serve a community that has been historically underserved and discriminated against. Black lives have always mattered to us, and we will continue to guard Bayview residents in partnership and with pride.”

Scott called the project “a really, really rewarding experience.”

Taylor, vice president of the Police Commission, said the posters serve as a small but powerful symbol.

“It’s so meaningful to know that, walking into a district station, my life is important ... my humanity is not a throwaway to SFPD,” she said. “It’s a small gesture, but it’s an important gesture, and it’s important on the path forward to reform and to healing.”

The San Francisco Police Officers Association last month sent the commission a letter saying the union supported the notion that Black and brown lives matter, but a directive to install the posters “establishes a new precedent that raises concerns about introducing political agendas and wedge issues into the safe harbor of police stations.”

On Wednesday, union President Tony Montoya said the city should now begin focusing on the root causes of unsafe neighborhoods, including the dearth of affordable housing, lack of employment and educational opportunities, and inadequate health care services.

“Statements on posters won’t create a single job, put a single family in an affordable home, or provide a top-flight education for San Francisco’s children,” Montoya said. “We are prepared to roll up our sleeves and do more to uplift neighborhoods in a meaningful way beyond words, no matter how important those words may be."

©2020 the San Francisco Chronicle

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