Two white male police officers are suing the San Francisco Police Department because of what they say is “a longstanding custom and practice in discriminating against white males.”
According to the complaint, "The reason plaintiffs were passed over for lower-ranking minorities was because plaintiffs are white."
Officers Heinz Hofmann's and Thomas Buckley's lawyer, Patrick Manshardt, is quite confident that the men have a good chance of winning the case. Manshardt previously won a $1.6 million settlement in 2007 after a court found that five African-Americans were promoted unfairly over white officers. In that case, it was determined that the department favored Black officers above all others after the results of a 1999 promotion exam ended in every single Black officer being chosen for a promotion; an outcome that the court said was statistically impossible absent racial discrimination.
However, Hofmann and Buckley may not find that their case is such a slam dunk.
In 2005, the media reported that Hofmann was reassigned from his post at the department's tactical unit after internal affairs investigators discovered the squad's Hunters Point headquarters stocked with beer and hard liquor.
Despite the bad press and Hofmann’s subsequent reassignment, Manshardt thinks the bad behavior has nothing to do with Hofmann’s inability to snag a promotion.
"I'm skeptical that had anything to do with the promotions," said Manshardt. "The primary issue was race. Lieutenant Hofmann and Lieutenant Buckley weren't of the race that the department was seeking to promote."
The SFPD’s current promotion practices are the remnants of a 1978 court order that required the department to change its system of grading promotion exams due to discriminatory practices. Although the court order expired in 1998, Hofmann and Buckley maintain that the police department continued to employ this modified system to the detriment of white males.
SFPD promotion exam results are categorized according to general grade levels instead of by numerical grades. After the exams are complete, candidates are then assessed according to other criteria such as education, training, assignments, disciplinary history and awards. According to the complaint, this unfair overemphasis on subjective, nonexam-related factors results in discrimination against white men.
However, at the heart of many discrimination-based suits by African-Americans are “non-exam related factors” that contribute to their white counterparts’ higher scores on the exams, such as family legacy and cultural advantages.