Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Letters to SF Police Department Chief During the 1968-1969 San Francisco State Strike



In this digital age, "historical" paper letters--with their physical immediacy here in the present--can have a visceral impact that corresponds to the highly-charged political issues they address. I had just such an encounter this week while sorting through a carton of San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) files marked simply "City Records--Police." I came across a packet of over 200 letters to Chief Cahill about the SFPD actions during the 1968-1969 strike, protests, and riots (or "disturbance," as noted below) at San Francisco State College. Almost all of the letters in this collection are in support of the SFPD, and their tone ranges from grateful to congratulatory to exhortatory. The few letters that express criticism of the police are striking in their scarcity. I'm posting here one "pro" and one "con," along with a typical formal response from the Chief's Office.














The letters were discovered as part of a larger project of arranging, describing, and publishing a finding aid to our entire collection of SFPD records, which consist of approximately 65 linear feet of Board of Commissioners journals, "mug" books, clippings scrapbooks, directives, wanted posters, and other material dating back to the 1880s. We'll keep you posted on the status of this project and offer further highlights as we progress. For access to the collection, please contact the San Francisco History Center.

Images courtesy of the San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library.

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