SF police chief quits amid growing scandals and racial bias claims against the department – Los Angeles Times
San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr has stepped down at the request of the city’s mayor after a fatal officer-involved shooting Thursday and a series of scandals that have rocked the department over the last year.
In a surprise announcement Thursday afternoon, Mayor Ed Lee said that after the latest fatal shooting, of an unarmed woman in a suspected stolen car in the city’s Bayview neighborhood, he had lost faith that Suhr could mend the department’s relationship with the community.
“My goal has been real reform and trust has to be our priority. I have previously expressed confidence in Chief Suhr because I know he agrees with and understands the need for reform,” Lee said. “But following this morning’s shooting and my meeting with Chief Suhr this afternoon, today I have arrived at a different conclusion at how best to move forward.”
Lee continued: “The progress we’ve made has been meaningful but it hasn’t been fast enough. Not for me and not for Greg.”
The new acting chief is Toney Chaplin, a 26-year department veteran who was a deputy chief and former head of the department’s homicide division.
“The men and women of SFPD put themselves in harm’s way literally every day. We owe it to them to restore the community’s trust in their work,” Lee said.
For more than a year, San Francisco police have been under a microscope amid a series of scandals that saw officers accused of violating citizens’ civil rights, impeding criminal investigations, and exchanging racist text messages.
The racist text messages found on officers’ cellphones embroiled more than a dozen officers and put more than 3,000 criminal cases in jeopardy, including several homicides.
In January, civil rights activists demanded a federal investigation into the shooting of Mario Woods, a black man who was struck by more than 20 bullets during an encounter with police. Thursday’s shooting was the third time a person of color has been killed by a police officer in San Francisco in the last six months, said San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi.
“We’re at a crossroads. The question I have is whether or not we’re going to bring on leadership that is truly committed to changing the culture in the police department or will it be business as usual?” Adachi said.
Tension between the community and police had been “simmering” for years, the mayor said.
“These officer-involved shootings, justified or not, have forced our city to open its eyes to questions of when and how police use lethal force,” Lee said.
After the discovery of the racist text messages last year, Suhr and city leaders had pledged to implement a host of reforms to add officer training against implicit bias and increase accountability for officers who don’t report misconduct by their colleagues.
“Some of the reforms underway might have prevented or clarified today’s incident,” said Lee.
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6:42 p.m.: This article was updated with additional statements from the mayor and public defender.