SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee announced the resignation of SFPD Chief Greg Suhr in the wake of the latest fatal-officer involved shooting Thursday morning.
Mayor Lee made announcement was made late Thursday afternoon, only hours after the fatal police shooting in the Bayview that left an apparently unarmed 27-year-old female suspect dead.
The woman, who was behind the wheel of a stolen car, was fatally wounded by a single shot from a police sergeant Thursday morning after she refused to comply with orders from officers.
“For the past several months, this city has been shaken and divided and tensions between our law enforcement and communities of color have simmered for too many years,” said Lee.
The mayor acknowledged the continued support he showed Suhr, despite mounting opposition from both protesters and San Francisco officials.
“I have previously expressed confidence in Chief Suhr, because I know he agrees with and understands the need for reform,” said Lee. “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.”
Lee said that he asked for and accepted Suhr’s resignation during that meeting.
Deputy Chief Toney Chaplin was named the acting Police Chief during the press event.
The mayor said Suhr, who took over as chief in 2011 and has been with the Police Department for 33 years, is “a true public servant and he’ll always have respect from me.”
He said Chaplin, the new interim chief, has served in the department for 26 years and has an “established record of commitment to the city’s diverse communities.”
Chaplin before Thursday was serving as deputy chief in charge of the department’s Professional Standards and Principled Policing Bureau.
The shooting Thursday came at a politically difficult time for Suhr and Lee.
The San Francisco Police Department is already under intense scrutiny following the fatal shooting of Mario Woods in December and the fatal shooting of Luis Gongora in April, as well as two recent scandals involving racist text messages exchanged among officers.
Earlier Thursday, Lee was in the city’s Castro District for the announcement of a new neighborhood initiative when he first addressed the Bayview police shooting.
Suhr spoke to the media at the scene after the incident and said it was not yet clear if she was armed or threatening officers.
Lee initially addressed how the officer-involved shootings were affecting him personally.
“I have internalized it, of course, on every shooting that has happened,” said Lee. “And I need to make sure everyone is following protocols in circumstances. Was this officer’s life challenged in any way?”
Lee said that he needs “every single one of our officers who are charged with public safety responsibilities, who carry a gun and are authorized to use it only do so as a last resort.”
The Mayor said those and many other questions would be under review following the latest officer-involved shooting.
When a reporter asked what he would do about Suhr, Lee said that the chief was responsible as the head of the police department.
“He is at the top. And that’s who I’m meeting with to see what occurred here,” said Lee. “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.”
Previously, Lee had been staunch in his support of Suhr, saying as recently as last week that he would not ask Suhr to step down, but instead try to focus on efforts to reform the department.
On May 11, Supervisors Jane Kim, David Campos, Eric Mar and John Avalos called for Suhr to be replaced, becoming the first top-level San Francisco elected officials to do so after months of sustained calls from activists for his removal.
Kim issued a statement urging Lee and the San Francisco Police Commission to begin a search for “a new chief who can implement fundamental reform.”
“Chief Greg Suhr has served San Francisco for over 30 years and we should thank him for that service,” Kim said. “But even he must acknowledge that leading a culture shift in that department would be easier and faster if there was new leadership there.”
Kim’s call came after months of protests triggered by a number of fatal police shootings, as well as by revelations of racist text messages exchanged
In recent weeks, protests centered around a group of hunger strikers calling themselves the Frisco5 demanding for Suhr’s removal drew hundreds of people to City Hall. One sit-in ended with dozens of arrests.
Thursday evening, a spokesperson for the group released the following statement:
“We are pleased that Mayor Ed Lee listened to the community and demanded Chief Suhr’s resignation effective immediately.
We know that the power of the people made this happen. We have won this battle but the war is not over.
It is sad that it also took another life lost at the hands of SFPD. We demand that the officers involved in these shootings be fired and charged with murder. We demand a meeting between the community and the interim police chief to discuss real reform created by the community.
We still stand firm that we demand the immediate resignation of Mayor Ed Lee, who allowed rampant police misconduct, terrorized the homeless and forced out the middle and lower income residents of our community to serve the interest of big business over the people of San Francisco.”