SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- One of the organizations you'll see marching in Saturday's parade is the Emerald Society. It's a group of police officers and other law enforcement members who generally are of Irish descent.
"The Emerald Society is a large organization, which started on the East Coast in New York P.D., Boston P.D.. It's very big in Philadelphia and a lot of larger jurisdictions throughout the East Coast," President of the San Francisco Police Officers Association Martin Halloran said.
"We started it out here in 1999, a new chapter in the San Francisco Bay Area. We called it the San Francisco Bay Area Law Enforcement Emerald Society. And we wanted to open it up not just to San Francisco police officers, but all law enforcement throughout the Bay Area," Halloran said.
The Emerald Society in the San Francisco Bay Area now has around 600 members and you'll find them always volunteering to help others. "We basically do outreach in the community, mostly with the youth, the elderly. We established a scholarship program. We provide scholarships to high school students entering into college," Halloran said.
The society was formed originally to preserve the history of the Irish in law enforcement throughout the country. When the San Francisco Police Department was founded in 1849, it was largely made up of Irish Americans. It has changed dramatically over the years. "Half of our officers are made up of ethnic officers, officers of the LGBT community or female officers," Halloran said. "It's been extremely important for me because I am a first generation San Franciscan. My father immigrated here from Ireland in 1949. My grandfather on my mother's side immigrated here from Ireland in 1906 and he became a San Francisco police officer."
"The San Francisco police stars, the numbers are re-circulated. So, the number I have 772, that was my grandfather's number. So, the history is there and through the Emerald Society we try to maintain that history," Halloran said.
"The San Francisco Police Department has always marched in the St. Patrick's Day Parade and we usually have the largest contingency of officers marching as opposed to some other parades. So, we want to keep that tradition alive. You'll see the officers marching in their Class A uniforms. They get all dressed up. I have marched every year in the parade since I was a police officer, I have never missed it," Halloran said. And this year's grand marshall is a retired deputy chief of the San Francisco Police Department - Dermont Philpot."
"We have to keep the traditions alive, not just the St. Patrick's Day Parade, but the Gay Freedom Day Parade, the Chinese New Year Parade, all of these need to be kept alive for future generations to let people know where we were, what struggles have we had, where we are now and where we wish to be in the future," Halloran said.
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