San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr ousted following string of deadly officer shootings, scandals

SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — Embattled San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr on Thursday resigned from his position hours after a deadly officer-involved shooting. It was the city’s second such shooting this year.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee told reporters he asked Suhr to resign. Lee is appointing Deputy Chief Toney Chaplin, a 26 year veteran of the force, as acting chief of police.

“The past several months have shaken and divided our City, and tensions between law enforcement and communities of color that have simmered for too many years have come into full view,” Lee said in a press conference.

“The progress we’ve made has been meaningful, but it hasn’t been fast enough. Not for me, not for Greg,” Lee said. “That’s why I have asked Chief Suhr for his resignation.”

The announcement follows months of pressure from city leaders and the public demanding that Suhr be fired in the wake of over a half dozen fatal officer-involved shootings of unarmed minority suspects.

Deputy Chief Toney Chaplain
Deputy Chief Toney Chaplin

San Francisco has recorded eight fatal officer-involved shootings in the last two years.

On Thursday morning, a 27-year-old woman in a stolen car was shot and killed by police in the city’s Bayview District. Two officers patrolling the area spotted the stolen vehicle and tried to make a traffic stop.

The woman drove away but crashed into a truck, authorities said. The officers tried to pull the woman out, and at some point a sergeant fired one shot, striking her, according to Suhr.

In the last few months, Suhr increased efforts to repair the department’s battered image. During a meeting in April, Suhr said he had no plans to resign despite calls for his removal and that the police department was overhauling its lethal force policy.

“I will hold the Acting Chief and the Department to a high standard of urgency to implement the reforms we’ve already announced in the past several months,” Lee said, “And we will keep pressing forward with new accountability measures, and stronger oversight over police use-of-force.”

Board of Supervisors President London Breed remembered Suhr’s 30 years of service, particularly as a “young narcotics officer working the beat” in the Western Addition. “May his departure be an opportunity at last for our City to come together, and for everyone, no matter their color or creed, to feel safe in our communities,” he said.

In a statement, Supervisor Mark Farrell thanked Suhr for his years of service and called him one of the country’s most progressive police leaders. “I look forward to working closely with interim Chief Toney Chaplin on strengthening the relationships needed with communities across San Francisco to implement the ongoing, proposed, and needed police reforms. Let’s come together as San Franciscans and move forward,” he said.

Upon hearing of Chief Suhr’s resignation, supervisor Jane Kim stated, “I want to thank and acknowledge Chief Suhr for his 30 years of devoted service to the people of San Francisco. Now, we have to unite as a City more than ever to effect the deep changes that we know are necessary to heal and make the City safer and stronger.”

MARIO WOODS SHOOTING

A group of protestors, known as the “Frisco Five,” began their hunger strike on April 21 in response to San Francisco’s police shootings of black and Latino men and scandals within the SFPD involving racist text messages exchanged among officers.

“I’m not naïve, I know that not every cop is a bad cop but they’re all part of the same brotherhood,” activist Ike Pinkston said. “The good cops don’t speak up about the bad cops.”

The group also targeted Mayor Ed Lee, saying he should not continue to stand behind the chief–and that he also needs to go.

Lee had remained steadfast in his support of Suhr and pointed to reforms initiated since the controversial December shooting of Mario Woods.

On Dec. 2, Woods, who police allege was armed with a knife and was a suspect in a stabbing that occurred earlier that day, was surrounded and shot by five officers near a busy Municipal Railway stop. Video of the shooting circulated widely on social media, fueling public controversy over police tactics.

RACIST TEXTING SCANDAL

A racist and homophobic texting scandal came to light during an investigation of Jason Lai, a former SFPD officer who had been accused of rape. It was the second such scandal under Suhr.

Several SPFD officers sent racist and homophobic text messages between 2014 and late 2015, according to San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon.

Details of those text messages revealed inflammatory and inappropriate images found on former officers’ cellphones.

“Talking about African-Americans and using the “N” word repeatedly,” San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon said. “They’re talking about members of the LGBT community also in a very disparaging fashion.”

This wasn’t the first time Suhr’s officers were caught in a texting scandal. In 2011 and 2012, over a dozen other officers were caught sending racist text messages, according to Gascon.

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