Davis, Belva: Police Consent Decree


Belva Davis: To the best of my memory, I was mystified how – particularly in the fire department – these firefighters who were just being let into the door could organize themselves and take on a system where you risk your life offending your fellow worker because you don’t know when you’re going to need someone. Bob Denman and the rest of the people in the firefighters union were particularly brave. Not that the police officers association battle wasn’t as important, and maybe as fierce, but I think the firefighters acted out in public view more than others to show their disdain for having to live and sleep with these people of color. I covered those stories in order to give a voice to the Blacks who had organized in these associations, and kept up pretty closely with their legal case, and was amazed they hung in as long as they did. They finally ended up with an outreach hand to women who were trying to also break down those barriers. It's hard to think that in our liberal city – we always say that, “our liberal city” – that there was such ingrained dislike, almost hatred, along racial lines very visible into the main safety organizations in the city, but they were tough places to be. Jon Rubin: Can you let us know that the Officers for Justice was a group that brought a lawsuit…? Belva Davis: Officers for Justice was the organization of Blacks who had made it into the police force, and I think surprisingly to some, some of those who had made it in the ranks – you know with a few stripes on their shoulders – were leaders in this period of dissatisfaction; not standing on the side saying “I man the door” and staying quiet. And they had the courage to go forward, to organize themselves, to find legal help to speak out and be marked by that involvement. Then the firefighters association – I’m sorry I can’t remember their name. I can only remember Bob Denman’s name. I don’t know if they had a name; I don’t think they did.


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

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