The city of San Francisco has been plagued with a series of racially charged incidents that has led to the resignation of its chief of police. Yesterday SFPD Police Chief Greg Suhr stepped down from his position at the request of Mayor Ed Lee. The resignation came hours after a Black woman was killed by police during a stolen vehicle chase. The woman stole a vehicle and sped through the streets before crashing into a truck. She then attempted to back the car off the truck when police swarmed around her vehicle and attempted to pull her out. It was then that an unidentified officer discharged his weapon and killed the 27-year-old unarmed woman. Her death was the third fatal shooting of a suspect in the past six months.
These deaths had many critics complaining that the SFPD has a problem when it comes to dealing with minority suspects and are too quick to use their guns. Prior to Suhr’s resignation, San Francisco Mayor David Lee supported the department and the chief despite the growing clamor for reform.
Racial tensions were already high after text messages of a racist and insensitive nature by San Francisco police officers came to light recently. These messages were discovered on the personal phones of former officer Jason Lai and retired Lt. Curtis Liu during criminal probes. The messages ridiculed Black residents of Ferguson, Missouri, and made light of the death of unarmed Black teen Michael Brown. Among the messages was a text that referred to a burnt turkey as “Ferguson turkey” and photos with racist captions. The officers involved in the text messages have since resigned from the police force.
Suhr was appointed police chief in 2011 despite a demotion in 2009 over an incident where he failed to file a police report when a friend stated she was assaulted by her boyfriend. He was also indicted for an incident known as “Fajitagate” where several officers beat a waiter and stole his Mexican food. Those indictments were later tossed out by the DA. Mayor Lee has now named Deputy Chief Toney Chaplin, who is Black, as Suhr’s replacement.