Salisbury, Lois: Consent Decree


Lois Salisbury: There had been significant cases out of the United States Supreme Court which basically said that the standard of proof was gonna be harder. We used to be able to prove these cases by overwhelming statistical evidence. If the labor market had thirteen percent African Americans, and the Police Department had five percent African Americans, that desynchrony was enough to show a disparate impact. Something was wrong if you had that many people who were qualified and yet they weren’t being hired. If you had no women, something was statistically wrong, and even if you said women were welcome, but then in fact women kept flunking out of police academy you would use those facts. But now in civil rights cases, in order to get a strong remedy, the best remedy which was from our viewpoint and client’s viewpoint, a quota, one had to prove discriminatory intent. So you could have the statistics, and we had the statistics cold. We had the irrelevance of these various promotional exams and entry-level exams. We had that, but it wasn’t enough. We actually had to prove intent. And intent is really some evidence of the institutional will and the personal will – if you can imagine – of institutions that had changed over time when different environments, but nonetheless manifested hostility to your clients. So we had a heavy load, and our clients had a heavy load. But we believed given what was a long history of a very hostile work environment for particularly the Officers for Justice, the original black officers in the San Francisco Police Department, who experienced very, very disturbing interactions on a daily basis in their time in the department whether it was for their safety when their backup calls would not be answered, whether it was in their environment where they would hear racial [epitaphs] being used by their fellow officers, by sergeants, by people up in command, nooses left in lockers. The classic racist stuff that can happen in work environment had happened to these officers, and we as civil rights attorneys concluded that we needed to bring that evidence forward to show that this was in fact discriminatory intent. It wasn’t just kinda incompetence or indifference to the outcomes to these exams. There was actually a desire to keep the department white and male, and it went from all the way to the political hierarchy. That wasn’t easy, but that’s what we were prepared to do. We had some tension with the Department of Justice which tended to take a more conservative approach because they had a certain perspective that wasn’t necessarily informed by a San Francisco perspective in that moment in time.


Media is loading



Date Original



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

Contributing Institution

Holt-Atherton Special Collections and Archives, University of the Pacific Library

Rights Information

To view additional information on copyright and related rights of this item, such as to purchase copies of images and/or obtain permission to publish them, click here to view the Holt-Atherton Special Collections policies.