The San Francisco Police Department is once again fielding criticism that it doesn’t take race-based issues seriously, this time following the circulation of a union newsletter that riffed on the name of Black Lives Matter in a photograph.
The newsletter in question features a photo of two Labradors, one black and one white. The black dog is wearing a sign that says “Black Labs Matter,” while the white and tan pup holds one that says “All Labs Matter.” Next to the picture, the text reads “Maybe it’s time we all just sit back and tone down the rhetoric…”
Sgt. Yulanda Williams said she was upset by the image in the San Francisco Police Officers Association Journal.
"It was actually insensitive," she said. "It was dehumanizing and I was appalled."
The “All Labs Matter” sign parodies “All Lives Matter,” a popular phrase on social media that is typically used as an oppositional response to Black Lives Matter supporters. Anti-brutality activists have repeatedly claimed that those who say “All Lives Matter” are sidestepping statistics that report black people are disproportionately profiled by police and are being insensitive to the plight of people of color.
The debate has been waging both online and in protests nationwide, with San Francisco among the major cities that have seen hundreds take to the streets to combat perceived racism in police departments.
The photograph comes at a particularly strained time in San Francisco, reigniting a years-long struggle between San Francisco police and people of color that reached a zenith back in May and April.
"It's not a joke we're playing with," said Shawn Richards of the San Francisco NAACP. "We're dealing with a lot of racial issues right now."
At the time, a number of protests including a 17-day hunger strike and one fatal police shooting of an unarmed black woman ultimately led to the ousting of veteran police chief Greg Suhr, as well as promises from the mayor and city supervisors that allegations of racism and brutality in the department would be investigated.
Mayor Ed Lee said that the community and police need to work together.
"If there is a genuine effort by the POA, which I think there is, let's try to work together. The symbolism and the language probably need to change as well," he conceded.
The police officers asociation declined to comment for this story.