12 white men sue San Francisco Police Department alleging race and sex bias

FILE - This April 29, 2016, file photo shows a patch and badge on the uniform of a San Francisco pol
The lawsuit challenges a San Francisco Police Department test-scoring method the city adopted in 1979.
(Eric Risberg / Associated Press)

Twelve white male San Francisco police officers are suing the city, arguing that they were passed over for promotions because of their race and gender.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports Wednesday that the lawsuit, which was filed Tuesday in federal court, is the latest round in a conflict that dates back decades. A 13th plaintiff who is now retired says she also was denied promotion, because she is a white lesbian.

The lawsuit challenges a test-scoring method the city adopted in 1979 in response to a lawsuit from a group representing black and female officers, who alleged discrimination in hiring and promotions.

San Francisco “bands” promotional test scores so that people who score within a certain range are treated the same, which means the department can consider other factors such as language skills and experience in awarding promotions. The latest lawsuit challenges that method.


“The city — to this day — has a long-standing practice and custom of discriminating against white males in SFPD promotions to the rank of sergeant, lieutenant and captain,” M. Greg Mullanax, the officers’ attorney, said in the lawsuit.

Mullanax said that in 2016, the department promoted three black sergeants, even though their scores were lower than those of 11 white candidates who were denied promotions.

San Francisco settled a similar 2003 lawsuit for $1.6 million, but did not acknowledge wrongdoing.

Mullanax said that the Police Officers Assn. contacted Chief William Scott but that none of the officers who met with Scott received any “substantive response.”


John Cote, a spokesman for City Atty. Dennis Herrera, said the department “uses lawful, merit-based civil service examinations in making promotions.”

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