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Thursday, May 19, 2016

Police Chief Greg Suhr Is Gone; Mayor Appoints Replacement

Posted By on Thu, May 19, 2016 at 5:34 PM

click to enlarge sf.nato_.0515.jpg

Hours after police shot and killed an apparently unarmed black woman in the Bayview, San Francisco police Chief Greg Suhr handed his resignation to Mayor Ed Lee, the mayor announced Thursday afternoon at City Hall.

Suhr, a San Francisco native and a police officer for 36 years, had served as chief since 2011, completing a remarkable turnaround following several scandals that nearly wrecked his career.

But following several high-profile fatal shootings —  including the deaths of Mario Woods in December in the Bayview, and Luis Gongora in April in the Mission District — there was mounting calls from the public and from four members of the Board of Supervisors for Suhr to resign, despite his public embrace of (limited) police reform.

Lee met with Suhr on Thursday afternoon following the fatal shooting this morning — which was the last straw for the mayor.

"The progress we’ve made has been meaningful, but it hasn’t been fast enough. Not for me, not for Greg," said the mayor, who dismissed the hunger strike demanding Suhr's resignation as "political rhetoric" but pressed the need to "heal the City."

"That’s why I have asked Chief Suhr for his resignation."

The police department is now led by interim Chief Toney Chaplin, who is black. Chaplin served as a deputy chief, in charge of a new bureau tasked with overseeing police tactics and reform.

click to enlarge Toney Chaplin, the new chief of police. - SF EXAMINER
  • SF Examiner
  • Toney Chaplin, the new chief of police.
There is no timetable as to when Lee will name a replacement or if Chaplin — a virtual political unknown in San Francisco — is on the fast track to become permanent chief.

The politically-powerful Police Officers Association, which had been one of Suhr's strongest supporters but had publicly criticized the ex-chief for his embrace of use-of-force reforms — and which came close to holding a vote of no-confidence in Suhr, POA consultant and past president Gary Delagnes told SF Weekly earlier on Thursday — did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

click to enlarge Toney Chaplin, the new chief of police. - SF EXAMINER
  • SF Examiner
  • Toney Chaplin, the new chief of police.
Though rumors of his retirement started swirling late last year at around the time Woods was shot and killed, Suhr seemed likely to hang on as chief at least through the year. However, Thursday's fatal shooting of a female suspect who appeared to be seated in her car when she was shot made Suhr's exit inevitable.

"This is about reforming the paramilitary culture of American policing, including in the city and county of San Francisco, where everybody thinks we're at the cutting edge of everything," said Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who was not one of the supervisors to call for Suhr's exit last week. "And we're clearly not on the cutting edge of police reform."

Supervisor Scott Wiener, a former City Attorney who defended police officers accused of use-of-force violations in court, said he did not agree with Lee's decision, but expressed hope in working with Chaplin moving forward.

"I wish [Suhr] only the best and will miss his leadership," he wrote via text. "I look forward to working with the interim chief of police to make our city healthier and safer for all communities."

As for the activists who were demanding Suhr resign? They are not quite on a victory lap, but they have what they wanted.

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About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.


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