San Francisco police chief Greg Suhr has resigned following a police shooting of an unarmed, 27-year-old black woman. The mayor officially requested the resignation as the department attempts to regain the city’s trust and reform its department.
San Francisco has seen three controversial shooting deaths from police in the past six months. According to The Guardian, in December of last year, police shot Mario Woods, a 26-year-old black man, near the city’s Bayview neighborhood. Video footage contradicted police statements that Woods thrust a knife he was carrying towards the cops.
Then in April, police killed Luis Gongora, a homeless man who police also claimed attacked them with a knife. Eyewitness stories also contradicted the cops’ account.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, in Suhr’s five-year tenure, he oversaw 21 fatal police shootings. He survived two scandals involving racist and homophobic communications among the officers, along with criticism over a spike in car burglaries and two allegations of threatening subordinates with retaliation.
Throughout it all, San Francisco’s mayor, Ed Lee, stuck by Police Chief Gregory Suhr, arguing that he was reforming the police force to be more accountable. Suhr’s ability to survive scandal earned him the nickname the “Teflon” chief since nothing could stick.
It wasn’t until the shooting of a 27-year-old black woman that things changed.
Roughly two hours after news of the shooting broke, Ed Lee asked for his resignation during a City Hall meeting. Greg Suhr obliged and left the meeting without a public comment.
In a press conference, San Francisco’s mayor explained why he needed to let Suhr go.
“I have previously expressed confidence in chief Suhr because I know he agrees with and understands the need for reform. The progress that we’ve made has been meaningful, but it hasn’t been fast enough. Not for me, and not for Greg.”
The woman who was killed had allegedly stolen a car. When two uniformed officers approached her vehicle, she sped away and crashed. A sergeant then fired a single shot, hitting the woman. They attempted CPR, and she was taken to a hospital, but later died from the wound.
At the scene of the shooting, Suhr explained to reporters, “This is exactly the kind of thing, with all of our reforms, that we’re trying to avoid.”
San Francisco’s police chief joins several other high-ranking officers recently forced into resignation over excessive use of force by police.
Police Commissioner Anthony Batts from Baltimore resigned over the death of Freddie Grey while in custody and the consequent riots. Chief Thomas Jackson of Ferguson resigned after federal authorities uncovered racial bias in that city’s officers’ conduct. Then, Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy from Chicago quit after the shooting of Laquan McDonald.
Despite being embattled, Chief Greg Suhr had the support of the mayor up until just two days before the resignation.
Still, some activists in San Francisco had been fighting for him to leave for some time. Most famous might be the “Frisco 5” who endured a 17-day hunger strike to force Suhr’s resignation. San Francisco had been able to avoid massive demonstrations characteristic of other cities’ shooting scandals.
Rev. Amos C. Brown, head of the local chapter of the NAACP, has also come to Greg Suhr’s defense.
According to a New York Times report, Brown said of the resignation, “This is a good, compassionate man who has been scapegoated.”
Brown is happy about Greg Suhr’s replacement though: San Francisco’s Deputy Chief Toney Chaplin, whom the reverend described as someone with “character, competency and the chemistry and courage to continue what we have started.”
[Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]