San Francisco’s first Black police chief, Prentice ‘Earl’ Sanders, dies

Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) – The San Francisco Police Department is mourning the loss of former Police Chief Prentice ‘Earl’ Sanders.

Sanders joined the department as a young Army veteran in 1964 and later became the first Black chief of police.

In a statement released, Chief of Police William Scott says that ‘Sanders should be remembered for a trailblazing legacy that went far beyond the barrier he broke as San Francisco’s first Black chief of police.’

Sanders was also a founding member of ‘Officers for Justice.’ In 1973, they filed a discrimination suit against the police department and Sanders was the first officer to testify in federal court about the racism he faced.

Sanders was 83-year-old.

Here is Chief Scott’s full statement:

All of us in the San Francisco Police Department are saddened to learn of the passing
of former Chief of Police Prentice “Earl” Sanders, and our thoughts and prayers go out
to his family, friends and all who knew him. To all who did not, Chief Sanders should be
remembered for a trailblazing legacy that went far beyond the barrier he broke as San
Francisco’s first Black chief of police.

Earl Sanders joined SFPD as a young Army veteran in 1964, at a time when there were
few other African American police officers. He earned widespread respect from the
diverse communities he served as a beat cop, homicide inspector and member of the
command staff. Yet he heroically risked his ascent through the ranks to remedy the
injustices of racial bias. Chief Sanders was a founding member of Officers for Justice,
which in 1973 filed a discrimination suit against the department. He was the first police
officer to testify in federal court about the racism he endured in service to a City he
loved and a police department he ultimately made better and more inclusive.

Members of the San Francisco Police Department today take justifiable pride in a
legacy of progressive innovation that animates our quest for improvement and reform to
be a national model of 21st Century policing. That legacy owes in large part to the
leadership and courage Earl Sanders demonstrated throughout his career here. We are
enriched by the life he lived, and we join San Franciscans in mourning his loss today.

San Francisco Chief of Police William Scott

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