Mayor Lee appointed 26-year department veteran and Deputy SFPD Chief Toney Chaplin to the position of Acting Chief of Police yesterday after requestng and receiving Chief Suhr's resignation, a decision made by the mayor amid Suhr's growing unpopularity and in the wake of another officer shooting of a person of color.
Chaplin, who was born in Oklahoma, was chosen as he is respected by rank and file officers according to the Chronicle. Further, he is well positioned to enact reforms. As part of the Department of Justice review of the SFPD announced in February, Chaplin was appointed to lead a Professional Standards and Principled Policing Bureau, which was created to institute those reforms suggested by the DOJ.
According to a February letter from the Police Officer's Association: "Chaplin's bureau will work directly with the Department of Justice (DOJ) in an effort to be proactive, rather than reactive to the DOJ's recommendations, Chaplin and Chief Greg Suhr believe changes should be initiated immediately and on an ongoing basis; waiting for final DOJ recommendations is not an option."
"Community engagement is not new to Chaplin," the letter also observes. "He explains he's always served communities of color and was one of the originators of TNT (Taraval Neighborhood Team), a group of police officers who developed a program to engage youth in the Oceanview neighborhood. The officers found that mentoring, along with fishing and camping trips, did more to curtail violent crime than prior police efforts that focused exclusively on law enforcement."
Chaplin spoke about reform efforts and his own experience as a black police officer last year at Public Defender Jeff Adachi's Justice Summit. That annual event, incidentally, is to be held next week, and this year's summit will address use of force.
"Let me start off by saying this," Chaplin says as he introduces himself in a video (above) from the event, where he served on panel in lieu of Chief Suhr. "I'm in the unenviable position of being an African American and being a cop." (Start at about 46:34 in.)
Relatedly, Chaplin says he wasn't surprised by the racist texting scandal that roiled the ranks of the department. "When this stuff came out, I wasn't shocked by any of it. Most of us African Americans have experienced it throughout the years and it's old hat for us."
"I will tell you this," Chaplin added, "I'm looking back at everybody because I've worked for and with some of the folks that came out in that scandal, and I am appalled... there's a lot of African-American officers that are doing a little self reflecting about people they call 'friend.'"
Chaplin also spoke cryptically of "a real bad incident" in the South Bay when he was in the army. He skirts over it — something about clubbing in San Jose basically, but seems to indicate that it could have kept him from getting to where he was or perhaps taken his life.
"I think cynicism and and bias are probably the biggest corruption issues facing law enforcement, in the history law enforcement," Chaplin also says.
While a source tells the Chronicle that the mayor's search for a new chief will be national, a candidate from within the department is also not out of the question.