Protests in Ferguson, Missouri have spotlighted the inherent problems with militarized police departments and unchecked police authority nationwide.
Police brutality plagues Texas as well: As RH Reality Check wrote last month, the victims of police killings in Austin disproportionately tend to be people of color, even though the city is more than 50 percent white.
The San Antonio Police Department has responded by launching an #IPledgeToDoItRight social media campaign: “There’s no money being raised, no buckets of ice, no planking…just a bunch of good cops showing that we’re devoted to protecting and serving our citizens.”
The campaign, which began in mid-August, has received supportive comments from citizens but also its fair share of criticism. As one commenter wrote, “A pledge only works if the officers taking it know the law and have the tools to do better.”
The call to take the pledge was posted on the San Antonio Police Department’s Facebook page on August 17:
- #IPledgeToDoItRight? is the SAPD’s social media campaign to “Do It Right”. There’s no money being raised, no buckets of ice, no planking…just a bunch of good cops showing that we’re devoted to protecting and serving our citizens. We are committed to pledging, one police officer at a time, that we intend to do the right thing by our citizens, our Rules and Regulations, state and federal laws, the US Constitution, and our oaths of office. We challenge officers from the SAPD and other departments across the country to send us pics of them taking the pledge, and to further challenge other officers and agencies to do the same. We pledge to do it right. Do you? Here’s how to do it: Strike the pose, take the pledge, send us proof, and tell us where you’re from! We’ll try to post them all on our page, and you should also proudly post them on yours and your Departments’. Let’s show the world we’re proud to protect and serve.
So far, the SAPD has only posted a handful of photos from police officers taking the pledge, although the feedback they have received has been mostly positive. Presumably, the intent of the pledge is to remind officers of the oaths they have already made to exercise their authority responsibly, legally, and in the interest of the citizens they serve.
It’s a positive gesture, and I hope that police officers across the nation spend serious time considering their roles as public servants. I trust that many of them do, but I also know that many of them don’t.
Take San Antonio Park Police Officer Michael Ramirez, for example, who hospitalized a 16-year-old by putting him in a chokehold. Ramirez had previously been investigated due to prior complaints and received extremely poor ratings in his 2012 internal evaluation. Would a Facebook pledge have stopped Ramirez from using excessive force? Maybe—but a suspension definitely would have.
As a PR campaign, the message of #IPledgeToDoItRight/#PrometoHacerloBien is in the right place, but won’t make any measurable difference unless supported by better training and policies that limit discretionary authority and penalize officers with poor judgment.
Natalie tweets from @nsanluis.