Fred H. Lau

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Fred H. Lau (Chinese: 劉百安,[1] born June 26, 1949) is a former chief of police for San Francisco from 1996–2002.[2] He was the first Asian American to ever hold that position, and has been called the first Chinese-American to lead the police in any major American city.[3] He is the current TSA Federal Security Director of the San Francisco International Airport.


Early life and Education[edit]

A third-generation San Franciscan, Lau was born at San Francisco Chinese Hospital in Chinatown, San Francisco; he grew up in and around his family's business (Wing Duck Import/Export) on Grant Avenue in Chinatown.[4] He attended Garfield Elementary and Francisco Middle schools, graduated from Galileo High School.[5] While a teenager, he participated in the American Friends Service Committee anti-gang Youth for Service program.[6] He attended and graduated from City College of San Francisco,[7] and eventually obtained a BA (Liberal Arts) in 1997 from San Francisco State University.[8][9]

San Francisco Police[edit]

After successfully challenging a 5'8" height requirement[10] in 1970, Lau entered the SF Police Academy in 1971 and joined the San Francisco Police Department following graduation - becoming only the fifth Chinese-American member of the SFPD.[11] It is not documented whether Lau participated in the 1975 police-officers strike, although supervisors, inspectors and African-American officers were non-participants.[12] He became an inspector/sergeant, eventually rising to head the SFPD Bureau of Inspectors. As a lieutenant, he headed the sniper unit. In 1977 he was assigned to the SFPD Gang Task Force after the Golden Dragon Massacre.[13] Lau served on the SFPD Discharge Review Board until 1995; this panel came under severe scrutiny in San Francisco Examiner articles for failing to hold officers accountable in police-involved shootings.[14][15]

Police Chief[edit]

In 1996, as one of new Mayor Willie Brown's first official moves,[16] Lau was appointed as the first Asian-American chief of the 2,300-man department; possibly as a result of lobbying by AsianWeek publishers who supported Brown and Terrence Hallinan during the elections.[17] Chinatown activist Rose Pak threatened to withdraw support for the S.F. Giants' proposed Pac Bell Park if Mayor Brown didn't fire a political consultant hostile to Lau.[18][19]

Lau served six years as chief from 1996-2002. Among Lau's successes as chief have been mentioned the implementation of domestic violence and hate-crimes units,[20] as well as a crackdown on extortion in Chinatown.[21] He appointed fellow Gang Task Force member (and future SFPD chief) Heather Fong to be captain of SFPD Central Station.[22] On the other side of the ledger, the San Francisco Chronicle ran a series of articles criticizing the SFPD and Lau's leadership for nationally worst performance in solving violent crimes;[23] at the time Lau claimed that contractual seniority-based work rules and lack of off-hours justice solutions were key factors for the poor results.[24][25] Lau was also associated with initiating and promulgating the politically-unfortunate SFPD policy of arresting participants in the Critical Mass (cycling) demonstrations.[26]


After leaving the SFPD in July 2002, he was sworn as Federal Security Director with the TSA, overseeing staff at Oakland, Stockton, Sonoma County, and Modesto airports.[27] He oversaw implementation of security screening at Oakland in 2002,[28] and explosive detection for checked-baggage in 2006.[29] In July 2013, he became Federal Security Director for SFO.


Lau serves on the Advisory Board of the DHS Asian American Pacific Islander Network,[30] and is a Senior Advisor to the National Association of Asian American Law Enforcement Commanders.[31] He is a member of the American Legion Cathay Post No.384.[32]


  1. ^ 李昆明 金山史上第一位亞裔警察 (in Chinese). 世界新聞網 (World Journal). August 21, 2011. Retrieved July 4, 2014. 
  2. ^ " Feature: Fred Lau". WayBack Machine. 2006-01-03. Archived from the original on January 3, 2006. Retrieved 2016-04-19. 
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  5. ^ "Fred Lau overcame height restrictions to fulfill dream of joining force". SFGate. 1996-07-10. Retrieved 2016-04-19. 
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External links[edit]

Police appointments
Preceded by
Anthony Ribera
Chief of San Francisco Police Department
Succeeded by
Prentice E. Sanders