Chief Greg Suhr said the pledge and the “Not on My Watch” campaign had been in the works long before the Woods shooting, but the incident gave the project new urgency. Several angry protests were organized in the rough neighborhood where Woods died. And people demanding the chief’s dismissal disrupted the mayor’s inauguration on Jan. 8 and briefly shut down the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge on Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 18.
Yulanda Williams, who leads a minority police officers group, helped initiate the pledge after she found that a white colleague used a black slur in text messages to other officers complaining about her promotion to sergeant. Other text messages exchanged among Williams’ colleagues contained racist and homophobic insults and slurs.
“I will not tolerate hate or bigotry in our community or from my fellow officers,” the seven-sentence pledge states in part. “I will confront intolerance and report any such conduct without question or pause.”
The department has also launched the website Not On My Watch which instructs citizens and officers on how to file complaints against the police. The website includes a 10-minute video produced by a former television journalist, showing the chief, several officers and civic leaders reciting and discussing the pledge and the importance of rooting out intolerance in the ranks.
Law enforcement experts say San Francisco’s pledge is a novel way to try and tamp down rising tensions.
“I think it sends a good signal,” said University of South Carolina School of Law professor Seth Soughton, a former police officer and law enforcement scholar. “But whether or not the signal is strong enough remains to be seen.”
The Rev. Amos Brown, head of the local NAACP, chapter supports the pledge and called it a “step in the right direction.”
The police officers’ union has endorsed the pledge, though San Francisco Police Officers Association president Martin Halloran says reciting it is voluntary.