This week, San Francisco’s civilian-led police commission unanimously approved a resolution mandating that “Black lives matter” posters must hang in all of the city’s police stations.
According the resolution, within thirty days of its passage, each district station must ‘display a poster or sign of at least 32 x 24 inches that prominently and exclusively features the expression ‘Black Lives Matter.'” The poster or sign must also be “prominently displayed” and “placed in a location that is visible by the general public visiting the station and at all time the sign must be unobstructed from a distance of at least five feet.”
The resolution further mandates “that the San Francisco Police Department has an immediate obligation to maintain and replace” any sign that is modified, damaged, or otherwise altered, even by fading from the sun.
The San Francisco Police Department, according to the resolution, “should view the display of these posters as the first step in a larger dialogue with other city agencies and community stakeholders on how to further support black lives in San Francisco.”
Black Lives Matter has called for the defunding of police as part of their platform. “We call for a national defunding of police,” their website reads. “We demand investment in our communities and the resources to ensure Black people not only survive, but thrive.” Allies of the movement have made it clear that when they say “defund the police” they really do mean defund and abolish the police. So, one can image what it must be like for police officers being told to hang up posters in their stations signaling support for an organization that wants to abolish them.
While African American police chief Bill Scott is “fully committed” to the resolution, the local police union is not.
In a letter to the commission, the San Francisco Police Officers Association (SFPOA) explained their opposition to the resolution. “Make no mistake about it, the SFPOA supports the notion that all black and brown lives matter,” the letter states.
The basic premise that people of color should not be victimized by racist policies and practices is one fully embraced by the SFPOA. While the SFPOA shares in the Commission’s stated objectives of bias-free policing, equality, and effective community policing, the Commission’s public endorsement of a specific political organization (“Black Lives Matter”) and directive that the San Francisco Police Department prominently display posters in support of that same political organization, establishes a new precedent that raises concerns about introducing political agendas and wedge issues into the safe harbor of police stations. Police stations are places for the citizens of San Francisco to seek help and assistance when they have become victims of crimes. They are not places for political endorsements or alignment with political organizations.
The commissioner claims that the posters will simply say “Black lives matter” (without capitalization of the L and M) to show solidarity with the sentiment, not the movement, but the resolution specifically states “Black Lives Matter.”