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San Francisco police to install ‘Black lives matter’ posters in every station

San Francisco’s Police Commission voted unanimously to approve the resolution Wednesday


Protestors demonstrate on the Golden Gate Bridge in Francisco, California on June 6, 2020.

Photo/Chris Tuite/ImageSPACE/MediaPunch /IPX via AP

By Alejandro Serrano
San Francisco Chronicle

SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco’s Police Commission voted Wednesday evening to display a “Black lives matter” poster in every station throughout the city, despite objections from the rank-and-file’s union.

The resolution, which was unanimously approved, ordered the Police Department to install a poster of at least 32 by 24 inches in each district station within 30 days. The poster must “prominently and exclusively” feature the phrase “Black lives matter” and it must be displayed in a place visible to station visitors.

The Black Lives Matter movement has gained greater support after Minneapolis police were captured on video killing George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, on Memorial Day. Protests and demonstrations calling for the officers’ arrest, as well as localized police reforms, were held across the nation, leading to louder calls to address systemic inequalities and bias in policing.

Police Chief Bill Scott, a Black man, said during Wednesday’s meeting the department is “fully committed” to the resolution.

“As I have said before, people are talking to us and we have to listen,” Scott said. “Yeah, we’re listening. Yes, we will support. Yes, we are fully committed to implementing this resolution, and as the person who is charged with speaking on behalf of the department — and I can speak for the command staff and members of this department — Black lives do matter, and they matter to this Police Department.”

Commissioner Dion-Jay Brookter, who co-wrote the resolution, said the idea started over the past month as he met with members of the community who said they wanted to see the department express its support for Black lives.

“This came directly from the community,” Brookter said. “We needed to show unity and solidarity and say that Black lives do matter. My life matters. My 5-year-old niece’s life matters.”

The commissioner noted that the posters will simply say Black lives matter, without a capital “L” or “M” like the movement.

“This is just one small step to the reforms that we know need to happen,” Brookter said. “This is by no means to undermine or take the place of reforms we need to push forward.”

Not everyone in the department, however, supported the measure ahead of Wednesday’s vote.

The San Francisco Police Officers Association 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.”

An unspecified number of officers contacted the union with concerns about the resolution, according to the letter.

“Police stations are places for the citizens of San Francisco to seek help and assistance when they have become victims of crimes,” Rockne A. Lucia, a lawyer for the police union, wrote in the letter. “They are not places for political endorsements or alignment with political organizations.”

On Thursday, police union President Tony Montoya issued a statement saying the commissioners “should put away their soapboxes and stop their political grandstanding.” He noted that the department recorded a 31% increase in homicides at the end of last month compared to last year, and car break-ins are “rampant.”

“It’s time for the commissioners to get beyond hashtags, posters and politics because our community is depending on them and all of us to make San Francisco a safer place for everyone,” Montoya said.

Commissioner John Hamasaki said people who have asked what the point of a poster is raise a fair question. It’s symbolic, he said, and symbols have meaning.

“A sign is not the answer, but it’s a step — and it’s a step of recognizing the harm that we’ve caused and acknowledging that Black lives are equal, that Black people should be respected, treated fairly,” Hamasaki said.

©2020 the San Francisco Chronicle