Acting San Francisco police chief plans 'huge' changes to SFPD

Bay City News
Saturday, May 21, 2016
Acting SFPD chief plans 'huge' changes to SFPD
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Acting San Francisco Police Chief Toney Chaplin says he is planning "huge" changes for the San Francisco Police Department following the resignation of former chief Greg Suhr, including a review of the department's use of force policy.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Acting San Francisco Police Chief Toney Chaplin held a new conference on Friday to address some of the changes he plans to bring to the San Francisco Police Department following the resignation of former chief Greg Suhr, who stepped down after another officer-involved shooting in the city.

He said his top priorities would be rolling out body cameras and completing a review of use of force policies now underway. Chaplin went on to say he planned to move forward with plans to roll out body cameras this year.

"I think it's going to be a huge thing to help us out," he said of the cameras. "It's not going to solve everything, but it will give us another look at these things happening from the point of view of the officers."

Chaplin, a department veteran with 26 years of experience, was appointed Thursday following the resignation of Chief Greg Suhr, who stepped down in the wake of a fatal officer-involved shooting in the Bayview District earlier that day.

Chaplin has previously served as head of the homicide detail and deputy chief in charge of the department's Professional Standards and Principled Policing Bureau. In the latter position he has taken a leading role in reform efforts within the department, including the review of use of force policies launched earlier this year, which he described as "the biggest changes in the San Francisco Police Department in over 30 years."

RELATED: SF police chief resigns following latest fatal police shooting

Suhr had been the subject of repeated calls for his resignation since the December police shooting of Mario Woods, also in the Bayview District. Those calls had intensified following a scandal involving the release of racist text messages exchanged among officers and another fatal police shooting in the Mission District in April, which killed 45-year-old Luis Gongora.

Mayor Ed Lee, however, stood by Suhr and his efforts to reform the police department -- until Thursday's shooting.

Meanwhile, some community leaders came out in support of Suhr.

"The person who immediately called for the resignation of this chief did not learn from the page of the book of Chicago. After that chief was let go, what happened? They had other killings," said Rev. Amos Brown, local NAACP chapter president

San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener also spoke out for Suhr.

"He has done a good job as chief under very difficult circumstances, and so I personally don't agree with the decision for him to resign," said Wiener.

Chaplin said that he had had a personal conversation with Suhr on Thursday, which he described as one of the toughest days in his career. He said the former chief told him to "take the reins and get the department to where it needs to be."

Those words, he said, carried "a lot of weight and a lot of responsibility."

Police Commission President Suzy Loftus, who appeared with Chaplin Friday, said she was meeting with the mayor Friday to discuss launching a search for a new permanent police chief.

Loftus said she was confident that the transition to a new chief would not disrupt the reform process, especially given that Chaplin was in charge of them under Suhr.

"The situation we find ourselves in is beyond one chief or individual, and my focus is really on ensuring we can make these reforms and get to a better place," Loftus said.

Chaplin said he had not yet considered whether he would seek the permanent position.

Police did not release further details Friday on the circumstances surrounding Thursday's fatal shooting, in which a 27-year-old woman in a stolen car was shot by police officers attempting to detain her.

Chaplin said he expected to meet with community members to discuss the shooting and release the names of the officers involved some time next week.

He'll speaking at Third Baptist Church in San Francisco on Sunday at 3 p.m.

ABC7 News contributed to this report.