Brown, Jeff: Officers for Justice


Jeff Brown: The significance of the Officers for Justice Lawsuit was this: you had a lawsuit where minority firemen and minority policemen were alleging that there was active discrimination in the hiring of minorities and also in the treatment of minorities in terms of promotions and treatment of assignments. At one point there was a settlement which would have given money to individual minority policemen and firemen. I think they were gonna get about $50,000 a piece, and in addition to that there would be certain reforms. Now, if you’re a White policemen you may look at it from a different perspective, and you look at it from the perspective of “Hey, I got nothing to do with this, and I’m getting passed over for a promotion as sergeant or inspector because you have this court order. What’s this got to do with me?” So there was an awful lot of bitterness among non-minority, that is particularly White police officers and firemen. They did not like the idea. If you look at the ranks of the police department at that year, although the minority profile had increased, it hadn’t increased dramatically. It was still a very whole-town fight, largely Irish, largely Italian type police department; folks that I grew up with. So changing that department was not only just conferring money on certain members of the department who were non-White, but it was also changing the culture. Because these were – particularly the fire department – like a big family. I mean everybody was married to each other and knew each other. You’d say one thing in one firehouse, it would go all over the city. And it was all true in the police department, they all knew each other. So there was a big change that was coming about by this settlement. Well, they needed Dan White to block it because there was more conservative supervisors were hesitating to accept this settlement. White would have possibly provided the vote against it, and that’s why he was urged to go back onto the Board. Now I have to say, and I know that the president of the fire and police union at the time were not bigots. They themselves weren’t bigots; there might be bigots within the ranks, but they were responding to their membership. And George Moscone I’m sure was in favor of it. I think many of the Board of Supervisors were in favor, and it looked like it was going to go through. But I have to say what transpired as a result of that assassination was that there was a change in the police department, and the police department today is more reflective of the city and county of San Francisco. The racial profile is increasingly a representative police department. But at the same time, I have to tell ya, it’s lost the old culture. That’s probably a good thing, but ya know if you’re part of that old culture you feel like you’re missing something.


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The Moscone oral history interviews are part of the George Moscone Collection, MSS 328.

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