San Francisco police chief apologises to LGBT community for historic mistreatment and violence

The police chief for San Francisco has issued a landmark apology to the LGBT+ community for historic mistreatment and violence.

Bill Scott gave a speech at the Glide Memorial Church on Monday, 26 August, during what he called a “listening tour” with the LGBT+ community aimed at improving relations.

“I, and the men and women of this police department, are truly sorry,” he said.

“We are sorry for what happened, we are sorry for our role in it and we are sorry for the harm that it caused.

“Some here tonight may ask, ‘Why now? Why are we doing this now?’ And for those of you who might wonder why – I say it’s because we are listening. We hear you. And because it’s time.”

Scott added he wanted members of the LGBT+ community to build a bridge between the department and the community after tensions in the past.

The apology comes 53 years after the Compton’s Cafeteria riot in the Tenderloin area of San Francisco.

A sign reads “Gene Compton’s Cafeteria Way” in San Francisco (Wiki Commons/Pax Ahimsa Gethen)

In August 1966, three years before famous Stonewall riots in New York, a group of trans women stood up to police harassment and brutality in the all-night restaurant.

One trans woman is believed to have thrown a cup of coffee in an officer’s face, sparking a riot and historic moment of trans resistance to police violence.

Scott added: “We can’t simply forget about the wrongs of the past and hope that the pain, the hurt caused by these wrongs will simply go away, because they won’t.”

However, some say an apology is not enough as a significant proportion of the city’s homeless population are LGBT+ and subject to sweeps.

One person told the San Francisco Examiner: “Every night, homeless people and other homeless youth are targeted by sweeps and being brutalised.

“If you want to truly apologise for something, you have to stop what you’re doing.”

Another added: “We’re often criminalised for being poor in the Tenderloin. The mayor has increased patrols. There has to be more than an apology.”