San Francisco Supervisor Jane Kim on Wednesday called on Mayor Ed Lee and the San Francisco Police Commission to launch a comprehensive search for a new police chief. Supervisors John Avalos, David Campos, and Eric Mar said they backed the search.
San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr has come under fire after a series of recent deadly officer-involved shootings and after a number of officers were found to have exchanged racist and homophobic texts.
Kim said she made her decision after a preliminary report from the Blue Ribbon Panel on Transparency, Accountability and Fairness in Law Enforcement found problems in a range of areas in the Police Department. The report said the Police Department does a poor job collecting and sharing crime data and that its police policies target minorities. The panel consists of three retired judges.
“It’s clear that we need change to address systematic problems and bring our city back together again,” Kim said in an interview with KQED. “Chief Suhr has served San Francisco for over 30 years and we should thank him for that service. But even he must acknowledge that leading a culture shift in that department would be easier and faster if there was new leadership.”
At a press conference yesterday, Suhr said he is not considering resigning. The Board of Supervisors does not have jurisdiction over removal of the police chief — only the mayor or Police Commission can fire him. So far, Suhr has received the continued backing of Lee and Police Commission President Suzy Loftus.
“I’m not saying that we need to ask for the chief’s resignation today,” Kim said. “What we need to do is start an orderly search for a new chief over the next couple of months — one that is going to be able to ably serve and lead significant reforms for this department and regain the trust of our community.”
San Francisco “should be in search mode for a new police chief,” Avalos said in a statement emailed to KQED.
“After the public unrest and the revelations of the last week, I don’t have a lot of confidence in Chief Suhr’s ability and commitment to implement the substantive reforms that are needed in the police department,” Avalos’ statement said.
“We have reached a point where the chief of police himself has become the focal point of this debate, and it has become a distraction,” Supervisor David Campos said in an interview. “And given the seriousness of this report, I don’t see how this chief of police can remain in the job and effectively make the systemic changes that are needed.”
Mar said that while he had “nothing but respect” for Suhr’s efforts to reform the department, the city needed to bring in someone from outside the department.
“I agree that we need a new police chief,” Mar told Bay City News. “It should be a national search and somebody who can effectively deal with systematic racism and bigotry and rebuild trust in our community.”
Mayor Lee proposed yesterday to spend an additional $17.5 million on the city’s police to help the department institute reforms and reduce violence.
Suhr said yesterday he aims to reduce officer shootings by 80 percent through better training and stricter policies on when guns can be drawn and fired.
Kim, who is running for state Senate, said there is no political motivation for the move.
“I think at this time it’s clear that we need to see right leadership and strong leadership for the Police Department, regardless of what’s going on politically externally,” Kim said. “It’s really clear that the city and residents have made it clear that they want to see new leadership.”
San Francisco Supervisors Express Support for Chief Suhr
Supervisor Scott Wiener, who is running for state Senate against Kim, expressed support for Suhr in an emailed statement. He also said “Supervisor Kim has limited credibility when it comes to public safety.”
“He [Suhr] is leading the department in advancing much-needed reforms to reduce the number of officer-involved shootings. The Chief’s resignation won’t accelerate these reforms. If anything, his removal will delay needed reforms,” Wiener’s statement said.
“We have serious work to do to improve public safety in San Francisco and to formulate and implement much needed reforms. Firing the chief — and calling for his firing in order to generate press headlines — won’t help achieve either of those goals,” his statement continued.
Supervisor Mark Farrell also expressed his support for Suhr in an emailed statement to KQED.
“Since taking the helm in 2011, there has not been a more progressive police chief in San Francisco history. There is no one better positioned to lead our police department and implement the upcoming reforms than Chief Suhr himself. Supervisor Kim is displaying election-year politics at its worst, and it makes my stomach churn,” the statement said.
Supervisor Katy Tang came out strong in support for the chief.
“Those calling for Chief Suhr’s resignation will have a rude awakening once they realize that putting someone else in his place will not solve the problems they think it will,” Tang said in an email Wednesday night. “It is ironic that there is an effort to remove Chief Suhr, someone who grew up in San Francisco, someone who has walked through some of the toughest neighborhoods as a beat officer, and who has not hesitated to take action against officers who abuse the public’s trust and respect for them.”
Supervisor Malia Cohen called Suhr a “lightning rod” and said some reforms are not being properly implemented, but she did not call for his removal. Supervisor Norman Yee said Suhr should be given more time to implement reforms.
Supervisors London Breed and Aaron Peskin would not comment on the issue.
Suhr Under Fire
On Tuesday, a member of San Francisco’s Ethics Commission said Suhr should resign for the good of the Police Department.
Ethics Commissioner Peter Keane says he believes Suhr, for the most part, has done a good job but has become a distraction.
“I think he should make the decision himself to just step aside,” Keane said. “And I think if he did, he would be doing something that would be in the interest of not just of the Police Department but of the city and county of San Francisco as a whole.”
Protesters also have called for Suhr to be removed from his post after recent officer-involved shootings. A group of five activists, known as the “Frisco Five” (#Frisco5), went on a 17-day hunger strike calling for Suhr’s resignation.
Don Clyde, Tara Siler, Alex Helmick, Ted Goldberg and the Associated Press contributed to this report.