By Jonah Owen Lamb and Joshua Sabatini, sfexaminer.com
Hours after the latest fatal police shooting in San Francisco, Mayor Ed Lee announced Thursday afternoon that Police Chief Greg Suhr has resigned from his position as The City’s top cop.
Lee made the announcement at City Hall after meeting with the chief behind closed doors. Toney Chaplin, a 26-year veteran of the Police Department, will serve as acting chief.
The mayor’s call for Suhr’s resignation follows Thursday’s fatal police shooting in which a Bayview Station sergeant shot and killed an unarmed 27-year-old woman who had fled from police in a stolen car, and after months of scrutiny over high-profile police shootings and use of force tactics by police that has prompted the mayor to put into action a series of reforms.
“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.”
The mayor continued, “But following this morning’s officer-involved shooting and my meeting with Chief Suhr this afternoon, today I have arrived at a different conclusion to the question of how best to move forward.
“The progress we’ve made has been meaningful, but it hasn’t been fast enough. Not for me, not for Greg. That’s why I have asked Chief Suhr for his resignation. And in the best interest of The City he loves so much, he tendered his resignation earlier today.”
Lee had previously defended the chief, despite four supervisors last week calling for Suhr to step down. Wednesday night’s Police Commission meeting in Chinatown was interrupted by protesters calling for a review of Suhr’s performance.
Activists, and for 17 days five hunger strikers known as the “Frisco 5,” have been calling for the mayor to fire Suhr since the Mario Woods killing in Dec. 2, which was caught on video that went viral.
Members of the Board of Supervisors praised Suhr for his leadership while also calling for a new culture and greater emphasis on reforms in the embattled Police Department.
Board of Supervisors President London Breed, who has known Suhr from when she grew up in the Western Addition and Suhr was a narcotics officer working the beat in her neighborhood, said in a statement, “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.”
Among the supervisors who called for Suhr to step down last week was Supervisor John Avalos, who said Thursday the chief’s departure will place a greater emphasis on reforming the Police Department.
“I think it was the right move,” Avalos said of the chief resigning. “Now the real work needs to get done … I am hopeful that things will get better.”
A San Francisco native, Suhr has been a police officer since 1981. He graduated from St. Ignatius Preparatory and the University of San Francisco and has had a varied career, including serving as captain of the Bayview Station prior to his time as chief.
As a deputy chief, Suhr was indicted along with a group of other department brass in 2003 for allegedly covering up a fight involving two officers with a man over a fajita in a scandal that came to be known as “Fajita-gate.” The charges were ultimately dropped.
Suhr was appointed chief by Lee in April 2011 to replace interim Chief Jeff Godown. During his time in the department he had a close relationship with the powerful police union and even had a monthly column “Chief’s Corner” in their journal.
Under Suhr’s leadership, two separate incidents came to light in which San Francisco officers reportedly sent racist text messages. The allegations called into question claims made by some that the department has no issues with race, and came amid numerous police reform efforts, some of which were spurred directly as a result of previous revelations of bigotry in the ranks.
Suhr was The City’s 42nd police chief.