The San Francisco Police Department, the once-head of its officer’s union and a department commander are now the subjects of a $2.5 million lawsuit alleging racial harassment and discrimination.The suit was filed on May 30 by Yulanda Williams, an acting police captain with nearly 30 years on the city’s force. She has long been the president of an organization of African American SFPD officers.
Williams told reporters for a local news site, “On the record, I can say that as a whistleblower, I deserved to be protected.”
Suit claims whistleblower retaliation
In 2015, racist text messages exchanged by a group of the city’s officers went public, some with messages mentioning Williams by name. Her response included testifying before a panel investigating department mistreatment of minority officers.
Last month's lawsuit alleges that the then-head of the police officer’s union encouraged retaliatory behavior against Williams because of her testimony.
According to the filing, the union attacked Williams in the press and in a letter to members, causing her to fear for her safety. Then, when Williams and over 12 mostly minority officers withdrew from the union, their names were posted in city police stations, the suit says.
An ongoing pattern of abuse is alleged
The lawsuit also describes a wide variety of other discriminatory actions and instances of harassment.
For example, the commander, then a captain, is alleged to have ordered recruits to photograph Williams to document her uniform infractions. Pictures of her shopping in uniform were shared on social media.
The then-captain is described as having harassed Williams for her natural hair styles on the pretext that the styles did not comply with SFPD policy. Meanwhile, the styling choices of female white officers is said to have gone unquestioned when not in compliance.
Williams asserts these measures were part of a broader campaign to prevent her from obtaining a promotion.
Notably, a bill known as the CROWN Act is currently making its way through the California legislature. It would include “traits historically associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture and protective hairstyles” as recognized bases of discrimination and harassment