Salisbury, Lois: Officers for Justice resistance


Lois Salisbury: Well I can’t speak for the fire department, only secondarily. The fire department case had been pretty much resolved. There had been plenty of hostility towards that case, and a lot of community aspiration around that case. So there was disappointment from without and I think probably some satisfaction from within on the fire department case because we really hadn’t made that much progress given what we thought was an unreceptive judge. The police department case, which I really think was always the higher profile case, there was a lot of hostility to this case. The San Francisco Police Officers Association intervened in the case and was given permission to play a formal role in the case. They lined themselves up consistently every time with the city in opposition to everything that was being advanced or promoted by public advocates in behalf of the Civil Rights Coalition. They opposed undoing the height requirement. They wanted to keep it. They defended this physical agility examination even though it really couldn’t pass muster. And by the way, when we said well if it’s relevant, then there must be some random sample of current police officers who can pass this exam because it means you have to be able to do it on the job and that threat that it might actually randomly imposed on some one hundred officers contributed greatly to us being able to dissolve – if you will – that particular barrier because they didn’t want to expose a hundred randomly selected officers to a test they knew they couldn’t pass, and it wasn’t job relevant. Either that or those guys didn’t belong on the force. But there was this tremendous hostility to change. There was tremendous hostility to a sense of entitlement around the exams and the promotional issues especially. I think the entry-level issues in terms of integrating the department with more people of color, there was less hostility to, but the idea that the sergeant’s exam or the inspector’s exam or the lieutenant’s exam had not up to that point selected the best people. There was a real threat to the egos of those who held the high ranks and to the sense that they had studied hard, they had cracked the books, they had cracked the code – if you will – to pass those exams, and they deserve to be there. And that anybody who was gonna have those ranks should do what they did. There was also great hostility to women. The rank and file as well as the high-ups in the San Francisco Police Department did not want or welcome women on patrol even though Boston, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., New York City all had women on patrol who were contributing greatly to the effectiveness of those police departments. San Francisco was not in the same frame of mind as some of its large counterparts.


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.