SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Former San Francisco Police Chief Prentice Earl Sanders–the city’s first Black police chief–died on Monday, Police Chief Bill Scott announced.

Sanders, 83, joined the Police Department in 1964 and was eventually appointed to the position of chief in 2002 by then-Mayor Willie Brown.

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In a statement, Scott sent his condolences to Sanders’ family.

“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,” he said.

FILE – In this July 2, 2003, file photo, San Francisco Police Chief Earl Sanders rests on a book of documents and looks out at the Pacific Ocean, below the Cliff House, in San Francisco. Sanders, who became San Francisco’s first Black police chief after working as a homicide detective on such infamous cases as the 1970s Zebra murders, died Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. He was 83. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)

“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,” he said.

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In 1973, Sanders filed a discrimination suit against the Police Department and testified in federal court about the racism he experienced.

“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,” Scott said.

Sanders served as police chief for just a year, retiring in late 2003 after he was indicted by a grand jury for allegedly trying to cover up a fight between off-duty officers, later known as Fajita-gate, although the charges were ultimately dropped.


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