SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee announced Tuesday morning that a Los Angeles deputy police chief will be the city’s new top cop.
William “Bill” Scott will take over as San Francisco’s police chief, replacing previous permanent chief Greg Suhr. Toney Chaplin had been serving as interim chief since May when Suhr resigned following a string of fatal officer-involved shootings in the city.
Before introducing Scott, Lee offered his thanks to Chaplin for serving as acting chief.
“Toney stepped up and led our department with grace and integrity during an incredibly trying time for our city and our department,” said Lee. “He has worked tirelessly to move our San Francisco Police Department forward and on a path of reform.”
Scott’s appointment came as a bit of a surprise to a lot of city leaders, who expected acting chief Chaplin to get the job.
Scott started working in the Los Angeles Police Department in 1989 and was overseeing the department’s South Bureau before his appointment by Lee.
Scott was in charge of the department’s 1,700 officers in that bureau, an area plagued with gang violence.
“We found a candidate that both the commission and myself felt embodied what our city and our police department needs in its next police chief,” said Lee. “He’s seen firsthand what it takes to … transform a department. This starts at the top.”
Scott proceeded to introduce his wife and children who were present at the press conference and touched briefly on his background growing up in Alabama.
“When my wife and I got married, we talked about the places that we wanted to live and number one on my list was the city of San Francisco,” said Scott.
He went on to address his hopes to continue the department on the path of reform.
“What you will find in me, I hope, is the same person that I have been all my life, a person who will listen to you, will hear you, and will take action as appropriate, a person who will be fair and who will be consistent,” he said. “There is a lot of work to be done, a lot of reforms that are on the agenda.”
Scott said he understood the importance of the police department connecting with the community.
“To the community of the city of San Francisco and the various diverse communities that make up this great city, what you will find in me — I hope –is the same person that I’ve been all my life,” said Scott. “A person that will listen to you, will hear you, and take action when appropriate. A person that will be fair and will be consistent.”
Scott is taking the helm of the SFPD amid major reforms with a laundry list of overhauls: transparency, accountability, and building community trust are among them.
It’s a crucial time as the department looks to turn a corner from past scandal and public discontent.
The SFPD is implementing broad changes in the department’s use-of-force policies in the wake of a string of deadly officer-involved shootings over the past couple of years.
Perhaps the most high-profile incident was the shooting of Mario Woods, who was shot more than 20 times by officers in the Bayview one year ago.
Like many cities, San Francisco has experienced intensifying racial tensions between police and the community in recent years, fueled in part by police killings caught on video including the Woods shooting.
In 2015, a local judge in one case involving alleged police misbehavior ruled that Suhr had waited too long to discipline officers who had exchanged racist and homophobic text messages. Suhr said he delayed discipline because he didn’t want to interfere with a federal corruption investigation into several officers.
The San Francisco Police Officers Association, which advocated for Chaplin remaining in the position as chief, issued a statement Tuesday morning from union president Martin Halloran about Scott’s appointment.
“We look forward to meeting William Scott. We anticipate that he will tap into the tremendous talent of the men and women who make up the SFPD. The POA hopes to work closely with him as chief and we are committed to helping him move the department forward here in San Francisco,” Halloran said.
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