SFPD Chief Suhr Resigns After Series of Fatal Officer-Involved Shootings

San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr says the department is launching several efforts to reform officer use-of-force procedures in the wake of the fatal police shooting of Mario Woods. (Alex Emslie/KQED)

Greg Suhr
(Alex Emslie/KQED)

By Alex Emslie and Lisa Pickoff-White
KQED

Updated 10:56 p.m.

San Francisco’s mayor announced Thursday afternoon that Greg Suhr, the city’s embattled police chief, has resigned.

Suhr’s leadership has been besieged with calls for his ouster following a series of controversial and deadly officer-involved shootings and multiple racist and homophobic text message scandals emerging from San Francisco police officers.

At a press conference late Thursday afternoon, Mayor Ed Lee said he asked Suhr to tender his resignation.

“The progress we’ve made has been meaningful, but it hasn’t been fast enough,” Lee said. “Not for me, and not for Greg.”


Video via San Francisco Examiner reporter Joe Fizgerald-Rodriguez

The announcement came hours after an officer fatally shot a young black woman while attempting to pull her from a wrecked car police believed was stolen.

Suhr said Thursday morning that another fatal shooting was “exactly the kind of thing with all the reforms we are trying to prevent.” He similarly questioned whether changes to the way officers are directed to approach lone suspects with knives were followed in the deadly shooting of Luis Gongora last month.

“Some of the reforms underway might have prevented or clarified today’s incident,” Lee said Thursday. “We need to turn these plans into actions.”

One organization largely seen as an impediment to those plans — the San Francisco Police Officers Association — said in a written statement Thursday evening that Suhr’s tenure as police chief “will go down as one of the most successful in the history of [the] San Francisco Police Department.”

“It is a great disappointment that he is departing the police force after having given so much of himself during a very difficult period,” POA President Martin Halloran said. “His retirement under pressure is an extreme loss to the department and the city. Chief Suhr, at the core, was and always will be a cop’s cop and dedicated to the men and women who don the uniform every day to serve and protect.”

Lee named Toney Chaplin, 47, as acting police chief. Chaplin is leaving his post as deputy chief of the Bureau of Professional Standards and Principled Policing. He was tasked with building the bureau and has worked in law enforcement for almost 27 years.

Some of Suhr’s toughest critics expressed sadness Thursday over the latest chapter for the city’s Police Department.

“It’s been a very difficult day,” Supervisor David Campos said. He joined Supervisor Jane Kim’s call last week for Lee to replace Suhr. “I’ve always liked Greg Suhr, and for a while I thought that maybe he could make the changes that are needed, but far too many things have happened under his leadership.”

Kim said Suhr has been a “dedicated public servant,” but the Police Department needs a new leader for an angry city to begin to heal.

“There is a tremendous amount of pain and division in our community today,” she said. “We need a leader who is going to be able to effectively implement the reforms that we want to see.”

Suhr’s departure followed a 17-day hunger strike that ended earlier this month with the hospitalization of five activists who abstained from solid food as they called for the former police chief’s firing over his handling of a series of fatal police shootings.

Edwin Lindo, a candidate for Campos’ seat, was one of the activists known as the “Frisco 5.”

“Never doubt the power of the community,” he said outside City Hall Thursday evening. “It is relentless, it is sophisticated, and we know what our demands are.”

Affiliated groups, including those that have organized around the fatal police shootings of Mario Woods, Amilcar Perez Lopez and Alejandro Nieto, reiterated that Suhr’s ouster was only one of their demands. They are still seeking stronger federal intervention in the department and murder charges for officers involved in several shootings.

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