San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr resigned Thursday. He is seen at a press conference earlier Thursday about an officer involved shooting that ended in the death of a 27-year-old woman.
May 19, 2016
San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr resigned Thursday, hours after a city officer killed a woman at the edge of the Bayview neighborhood and after he was asked to step down by Mayor Ed Lee.
At a City Hall news conference, Lee said he hoped to “heal the city” amid outrage over recent police killings of people of color and revelations that a number of officers had exchanged racist and homophobic text messages.
“The progress we have made has been meaningful but it hasn’t been fast enough, not for me and not for Greg, and that’s why I have asked Chief Suhr for his resignation,” Lee said in remarks that lasted five minutes.
Lee named as acting police chief Toney Chaplin, 47, who was a deputy chief. The announcement came after Lee and Suhr met for hours in Lee’s office, with the departing chief exiting a side door without speaking to reporters. Chaplin stood at Lee’s side during the news conference.
Lee appointed Suhr, 57, in April 2011 when George Gascón became district attorney. A 30-year veteran of the force at the time, he had the backing of the police union, Chinatown political powerhouse Rose Pak and state Attorney General Kamala Harris, Gascón’s predecessor as district attorney.
But Suhr presided over a series of controversies, including the arrests of officers, allegations of racism and racial profiling in the force, and disputed officer-involved shootings. The U.S. Department of Justice division in charge of police-community relations has launched a top-to-bottom review of San Francisco police.
“I have previously expressed confidence in Chief Suhr because I know he agrees with and understands the need for reform,” Lee said. “He has demonstrated his commitment to instilling these reforms into the whole department, from the command staff to the cadets.
“But following this morning’s officer-involved shooting and my meeting with Chief Suhr this afternoon,” Lee said, “I have arrived at a different conclusion to the question of how best to move forward.”
Lee said, “In this solemn moment we must put aside politics and begin to heal the city.”
Suhr and Lee had until Thursday been fending off calls from critics, including four members of the Board of Supervisors, that the chief be replaced.
City Supervisor Norman Yee, who had supported keeping the chief on, said Thursday he had been “willing to give [Suhr] this last chance to implement his changes. But with this recent incident today, which is tragic, I think the mayor is doing the right thing asking for his resignation. I am happy that Chief Suhr was wiling to give his resignation. We really need to start healing our communities.
“The chief is a good guy,” Yee said. “He does care about people in San Francisco. And I’m sure that weighed into this decision. … I think [Suhr] took the high road and really believes this is better for San Francisco.”
Board of Supervisors President London Breed, who had refused to comment before Thursday on whether the chief should be replaced, offered unusually personal remarks in a statement.
“Greg Suhr has served San Francisco valiantly for over three decades,” Breed said. “I knew him when I was a child in the Western Addition, and he was a young narcotics officer working the beat. Greg was always respectful, always a servant of the community. I only hope his resignation today can help heal the wounds our community has suffered, and that all of us can dedicate ourselves to the police reforms Chief Suhr helped begin.”
“It was an untenable situation and what needed to happen has happened,” said Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who had also refused to comment before Thursday on whether the chief should be replaced. “The events of this morning were above and beyond the pale.”
On Thursday morning, a San Francisco police sergeant shot and killed a woman who was driving a suspected stolen car near the Bayview neighborhood, officials said. There was no immediate indication that the 27-year-old woman had a weapon or was trying to run down the sergeant before the shooting, police said.
It was the third fatal shooting of a suspect by San Francisco police within the past six months. Previous shootings, particularly the Dec. 2 killing of 26-year-old stabbing suspect Mario Woods in the Bayview, have prompted critics to accuse police of being too quick to use their guns, especially against suspects who are minorities.
Woods was African American, and Suhr said the woman who was killed Thursday was black. Her name and the names of the officers involved have not been released.
Lee said police shootings had “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. … The community is grieving, and I join them in that grief.”
Chaplin, the acting chief, is a 26-year department veteran who has worked out of the Mission and Taraval stations and in the gang task force and recently helped launch a unit aimed at bringing transparency and accountability to the department.
“He’s established a record of commitment to the city’s diverse communities,” Lee said. “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.”