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Prentice Earl Sanders

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About the San Francisco Police Department

In his inaugural address in August 1849, John Geary, the first elected alcalde (mayor/judge) in Gold Rush San Francisco, reminded the newly elected council that the town was "without a single policeman…. [or] the means of confining a prisoner for an hour."


On August 13 the council selected Malachi Fallon as San Francisco's first Captain (Chief) of Police. Fallon in turn appointed a deputy captain, three sergeants and 30 officers to comprise the first regular municipal police department in American San Francisco.


Today, the San Francisco Police Department is a large metropolitan police department which is organized into four bureaus: Administration, Field Operations, Investigations and Airport.


The Administration Bureau provides support for the other bureaus of the San Francisco Police Department and is frequently the liaison with other city agencies as well as the Board of Supervisors.  The Administration Bureau of the San Francisco Police Department has a number of units and divisions: Behavioral Science Unit, Staff Services Division, Fiscal Division, Support Services Division, Planning Division, Technology Division, Risk Management, and the Training and Education Division.


The Field Operations Bureau contains the Headquarters, fugitive Recovery Enforcement Team, Metro Division, Golden Gate Division, Homeland Security Unit, Community Oriented Policing and Problem Solving and Traffic Company.  The Investigative Bureau is organized into five divisions by crime or specialty: Forensic Services, Property Crimes, Personal Crimes, Juvenile and Family Services and Narcotics and Vice. 




Prentice E. Sanders was the Chief of Police of the San Francisco Police Department for fourteen months in 2002 and 2003. He was born in Texas and moved to San Francisco's Laurel Heights at the age of fourteen.  After serving in the Army, he then received Bachelor's and Masters Degrees from Golden Gate University. Prentice Earl Sanders joined the San Francisco Police Department in 1964, becoming the San Francisco Police Department's first African American chief of police. In 2006, Prentice Earl Sanders and co- authored The Zebra Murders: A Season of Killing, Racial Madness, and Civil Rights.


According to Publisher’s Weekly, The Zebra Murders: A Season of Killing, Racial Madness, and Civil Rights is a “look at a largely forgotten reign of terror in San Francisco in 1973 and 1974 is an interesting if superficial true police procedural. Sanders, the SFPD's first African-American chief of police, was one of the lead detectives on the case code-named the Zebra Murders, involving a group of African-American men who, apparently racially motivated, were targeting whites in vicious random acts of violence that claimed 15 lives. The book reads less like an objective assessment of these events than a memoir of Sanders's experiences with the investigation and his role in a civil lawsuit against the SFPD to combat rampant racial discrimination. Oddly, about halfway in, the authors break the linear narrative with information derived only at the case's end, rather than lay out the police work and discoveries as they happened. The efforts to compare the police tactics with post-9/11 targeting of Muslims will strike most readers as labored despite Sanders's insistence that the killings were acts of political terror, not mere serial killings. Nonetheless, this serves as a useful introduction to the case.”

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