Following Thursday morning's SFPD shooting of an apparently unarmed 27-year-old black woman in the Bayview, Mayor Ed Lee held a late-afternoon press conference to announce that earlier today he asked SFPD Chief Greg Suhr to resign. Lee said that Suhr had done as requested, and that Deputy Chief Toney Chaplin is officially now Acting Chief.
Lee hinted for the first time publicly earlier today that he may be open to replacing the increasingly unpopular chief, and last week pressure was mounting already as four supervisors came out in favor of firing him. Only yesterday, in fact, Suhr insisted he had no intention of stepping down, and that he was the best person to lead reforms in the department and saying to the Chronicle, "I can’t honestly think of somebody else who could get it all done as quickly as I can get it done."
CBS 5 reports that while speaking at a previously scheduled event in the Castro today, Lee took a moment to answer questions about the shooting and his feelings regarding the chief.
"I have internalized it, of course, on every shooting that has happened,” Lee told those gathered. “And I need to make sure everyone is following protocols in circumstances. Was this officer’s life challenged in any way?”
The mayor continued that "[Suhr] is at the top. And that’s who I’m meeting with to see what occurred here." Lee was referring to a late-afternoon meeting he had scheduled with the police chief, which, according to numerous reporters holed up in City Hall, finished up around 4:15 p.m. today.
“Obviously, I have to hold our chief accountable for everything the officers do in every circumstance, especially when an officer-involved shooting is the circumstance,” said Lee this morning.
We now know that he did indeed ask the chief to resign, and it was the shooting of this apparently unarmed suspect in a car theft that finally convinced him, not the past several months of loud protests.
With a call out to protesters to gather at City Hall at 5 p.m., there is a real chance the scene could unfold in a similar manner to the May 6 City Hall protest in support of the Frisco Five that resulted in numerous arrests, however the goal of firing Chief Suhr has, today, been accomplished.
Meanwhile, the crowd at City Hall grows.
@KamalaHarris we need more than a tweet 2 explain why you do not think civil rights investigation of @sfpd is needed pic.twitter.com/XCj7Knqv2l— Karen Fleshman (@FleshmanKaren) May 19, 2016
Update: At 5:15 p.m. this afternoon, Lee's office sent out a statement on Suhr's firing. Here it is in its entirety:
“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.
Though the facts are still emerging, we know that, this morning, a young woman of color was killed in an officer-involved shooting in the Bayview.
The community is grieving, and I join them in that grief.
These officer-involved shootings, justified or not, have forced our City to open its eyes to questions of when and how police use lethal force.
For the last many months, every day, I have asked myself, is the path to reform best advanced by our current Department leadership?
Because my goal has always been, and remains, real reform and the restoration of trust.
I have previously expressed confidence in Chief Suhr because I know he agrees with and understands the need for reform. 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, today I have arrived at a different conclusion to the question of how best to move forward.
For me, this has never been about personalities and politics, it’s been about performance.
Because, in my three decades of public service, I’ve learned how important it is to measure progress along the way. Greg Suhr, a dedicated public servant who’s given more than three decades of his life to the Bayview and to this City.
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. Despite the political rhetoric of the past few weeks, I have nothing but profound admiration for Greg. He’s a true public servant, and he will always have my respect.
I’ve known him for years, and he’s a man of great character. He takes his job seriously, he’s loyal, he’s smart, and he understands that a Police officer is more than a public safety enforcer. A police officer is peace of mind, a social worker. He’s a model San Franciscan and a great man.
To take Greg’s place, I am naming Toney Chaplin as Acting Chief of Police.
Toney has served in the Police Department for 26 years. He’s established a record of commitment to the City’s diverse communities, serving at Mission and Taraval Stations, in the Gang Task Force, and running the Homicide division. Toney has most recently helped establish our new Professional Standards and Principled Policing bureau, the arm of the department that focuses on accountability and transparency.
The men and women of the San Francisco Police Department put themselves in harms’ way daily, literally. We owe it to them to restore the community’s trust in their department. As we embark on a new chapter for the Police, we aim to restore this trust.
Some of the reforms underway might have prevented or clarified today’s incident.
We need to turn these plans into actions.
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.
And we will keep pressing forward with new accountability measures, and stronger oversight over police use-of-force.
My fellow San Franciscans, we must push forward, harder than ever before, to reform the Police Department and restore trust with every community and keep our City safe.
In this solemn moment, we must put aside politics and begin to heal the City.”
Related: [Update] Unarmed Female Suspect Fatally Shot By SFPD In Bayview