Shooting of black woman final straw for embattled San Francisco police chief

The city's mayor stood by Police Chief Greg Suhr through another high-profile shooting and scandal involving racist text message between officers. But the death of a black suspect on Thursday prompted Mayor Ed Lee to demand his resignation.

Emma Chiang/The San Francisco Examiner/AP
Deputy and newly appointed interim San Francisco Police Chief Toney Chaplin (r.) looks on as Mayor Ed Lee announces his request of resignation from SFPD Chief Greg Suhr during a press conference at City Hall in San Francisco, Thursday.

The police shooting of a young black woman Thursday proved the final straw for San Francisco's police Chief Greg Suhr, who resigned as head of the department already weighed down by shootings and racially tinged scandals.

His replacement was notably swift.

Mr. Suhr resigned around two-hours after news of the woman's shooting and the city's Mayor Ed Lee moved quickly to appoint Deputy Chief Toney Chaplin, a 26-year department veteran who is black, as the acting police chief.

Mr. Chaplin's job is to help repair the police department's strained relations with the black community.

Pressure had also been building for the resignation of Suhr since December, when five officers shot and killed a young black man carrying a knife. Since then, there have been protests, moves to reform the police department and a federal review of its protocol.

"This is exactly the kind of thing with all the reforms we are trying to prevent," Suhr said Thursday, hours after the shooting and shortly before he resigned.

The move to appoint an acting black police chief follows an increasingly familiar script following high-profile shootings of black citizens by police officers.

Ferguson, Mo., made the appointment of Andre Anderson to replace the city's white, former Chief Thomas Jackson who resigned in March 2015, after months of riots and protests in following the death Michael Brown in August 2014. Major Delrish Moss, also black, was chosen earlier this month to replace Mr. Anderson as Ferguson's first permanent black police chief.

Chicago's Rahm Emanuel also appointed Eddie Johnson as the interim police chief earlier this year after police relations with the community reached boiling point.

In San Francisco, Mayor Lee stood by Suhr in December and again in April after an ongoing scandal involving police officers sending each other racist text messages resurfaced anew.

But last night after the shooting of a yet-unnamed black woman Suhr resigned quickly.

A police patrol on the lookout for a stolen car in an industrial neighborhood spotted the woman sitting behind the wheel of a parked car.

Police say the woman raced off when officers turned on their car's lights and siren. A few seconds later and about 100 feet away, the car crashed into a parked utility truck.

The officers got out of the patrol car and ran to the scene. The woman was revving the car as she tried to free it from the truck. Suhr said a witness stated that the officers opened the driver's door and began grabbing the woman in attempt to arrest her before a sergeant fired one fatal round.

"The progress we've made has been meaningful, but it hasn't been fast enough," Lee said in a brief statement at City Hall. "Not for me, not for Greg."

This report contains material from the Associated Press.

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