San Francisco's acting police chief reflects on last 2 months

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ByVic Lee KGO logo
Thursday, July 28, 2016
SFPD's acting police chief reflects on last 2 months
San Francisco's Acting Police Chief Toney Chaplin sat down for a very candid and wide-ranging interview in his office to reflect on the last 60 days he's been on the job.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- San Francisco's Acting Police Chief Toney Chaplin has been on the job for 60 days now, and he's already had success making changes his predecessor first set into motion.

It was a very candid and wide-ranging interview in his office. Chaplin says he's satisfied with the progress of the reforms he's making. But he also says he's still got a lot of work ahead. And of course, we started with the obvious question.

Lee: "It's been two months. What's it been like?"

Chaplin: "Busy, you know, dealing with the budget issues."

Chaplin says he's about 80 percent through the process of reforming use of force policies, the creation of time and distance and de-escalation.

In the two months since Chaplin has been chief, three incidents have been diffused without using lethal force.

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They include a man with a gun barricaded in a Chinatown apartment after a daylong standoff, another man with a gun earlier this month taken into custody in the Tenderloin District after another tense standoff, and on Tuesday police used less lethal force to take down a teen armed with a knife.

"I think it's the guiding principles for the use of force policy was a huge part of it," he said. "You know, we've been talking about how these things are going to help us out. But now you have actual fact-based situations to show that these things are working."

When the mayor appointed Chaplin, the use of body cams was already becoming a reality. And now, they too are being implemented.

"Getting the body cams rolled out, we've already got some of those out on officers in the field right now," he said. "It's in the training process."

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Chaplin is fully aware that he has to gain the trust of the diverse communities his department serves.

He meets with community leaders every chance he gets.

Lee: "How would you describe the conclusions you've come away with?"

Chaplin: "There's a lot of support out there for police and lot of support for the rank and file."

But Chaplin also knows about the increasing anger over officer-involved shootings.

"One of the things I'm looking at is a way to get the public's trust in the process of officer-involved shootings and subsequent investigations," he said.

ABC7 News has learned that state Attorney General Kamala Harris is working on a plan with cities -- most notably San Francisco -- to have her office investigate officer-involved shootings.

Chaplin would not comment on it but he did seem to embrace the concept.

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"One of the complaints I consistently hear in the community is they don't want us investigating ourselves," he said.

As to whether Chaplin wants the permanent job?

He says he's been too busy to think about it.

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