San Francisco police officers are being asked to combat racism in the ranks and take a pledge to turn in colleagues displaying intolerant behavior, such as slurs and jokes targeting people of color, gays and women.
The pledge is part of a broader public relations campaign by the embattled police department to repair frayed relations with minority neighborhoods and community activists.
The campaign comes amid growing tensions between police and black communities that are shaking up departments across the country and have led to the dismissal of top brass in some cities, including Chicago. Politically progressive San Francisco is not immune from the unrest. The Dec. 2 shooting of a young black man clutching a kitchen knife by five officers has increased racial tensions and sparked calls for the police chief's removal.
So far, San Francisco's mayor has stood behind the chief amid the emergence of racist text messages exchanged among several officers and a judge's decision that he failed to punish the officers in timely fashion.
Police say Mario Woods, 26, had stabbed a stranger earlier that day, ignored commands to drop the knife and shook off blasts of tear gas and shots from a bean bag gun before officers opened fire.
Police say only one of the five officers involved was white, but protests over the shooting persists. Mayor Ed Lee has asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate.
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."