As controversy swirls, SFPD officers make pledge against racism

FILE - In this Feb. 27, 2014 file photo, San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr speaks during a news conference at the Hall of Justice in San Francisco. The original charges were shocking enough: six San Francisco police officers were accused of stealing from suspects living in seedy residential hotels. Then federal prosecutors released racist, homophobic and ethnically insensitive email and text messages exchanged among more than a dozen officers, prompting the San Francisco district attorney to launch a wide-ranging investigation of the police department while considering dismissing up to 3,000 criminal cases involving the officers. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) — Dogged by allegations of systemic racism in the department and calls for the chief’s resignation, the San Francisco Police Department today unveiled a campaign to root out and address potential bigotry and intolerance among its officers.

The “Not on My Watch” campaign asks police officers to take a pledge to serve without prejudice and confront intolerance in fellow officers.

In addition to the pledge, all department officers will receive implicit bias training and procedural justice training by the end of the year, according to the department.

The department is also “aggressively recruiting officers from a variety of cultural backgrounds” and currently has 15 percent Asian, 15 percent Hispanic and 8 percent black members.

“The Police Department must look like San Francisco,” police Chief Greg Suhr said.

According to the 2010 census, the city’s population is 33 percent Asian, 15 percent Hispanic and 6 percent black.

The new training and voluntary pledge against biased policing are in addition to a review of police use of force policies and ongoing efforts to equip officers with body-worn cameras, according to the department.

“This campaign does not diminish the need for other substantive initiatives such as the use of body worn cameras and internal reporting and investigations,” Suhr said in a statement.

Suhr has endured repeated calls for his resignation after the fatal shooting of 26-year-old Mario Woods by five police officers in the city’s Bayview District was captured on video and widely distributed online.

Those calls only grew more pronounced when a superior court judge ruled against the department being able to fire officers who exchanged racist text messages, including references to shooting black people, because the department failed to act within a one-year statute of limitations.

The text messages were revealed in the course of an investigation into officers who had been stealing from single room occupancy hotel residents in the course of a drug investigation. Three of those officers were convicted in federal court and sentenced to prison.

As many as a dozen officers were implicated in exchanging the text messages, and federal investigators turned the evidence over to the department more than a year before they were made public in federal court filings last year. However, the department failed to act until after they became public and by then it was too late.

The department hopes the pledge and outreach efforts will help to repair strained community relations. Information on the pledge, other department initiatives, and instructions on reporting officers is available on the new website www.NotOnMyWatchSFPD.org.

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