San Francisco Mayor fires Chief of Police after officer involved shooting

Without any place names associated with the story you might think we were talking about Baltimore or Chicago, but this report actually comes to us from the City by the Bay. The Mayor of San Francisco has responded to an officer involved shooting on Thursday (as well as some previous incidents which increased tensions with the community) by firing his Chief of Police. (Washington Post)

San Francisco Mayor Edwin M. Lee said Thursday that he had removed the chief of his city’s embattled police department, a decision that came hours after a police officer in the city fatally shot a woman.

The move came as the city’s police force is facing criticism over fatal shootings as well as a controversy involving bigoted text messages sent by officers. While Lee (D) had previously stood by Gregory P. Suhr, the city’s police chief since 2011, he changed course on Thursday after the latest shooting.

Lee said during a news conference that he had asked Suhr to resign after more than three decades with the force. The mayor still had kind words for Suhr after his resignation, calling the outgoing chief “a dedicated public servant,” but Lee said he felt that a change was needed as the city confronts a tangled knot of protests and controversy.

Mayor Lee had been standing by the Chief for quite a while, so this move comes as something of a surprise. We’re not talking about a city (or a police department for that matter) that’s exactly known for intolerance or bigotry. Yes, they had a couple of high profile incidents where a few cops got on social media and were acting inappropriately, but by and large that doesn’t seem to be the general flavor of San Francisco.

The incident on Thursday certainly merits a full investigation, but the initial reports of the shooting don’t make it sound like a cause to start taking scalps on the police force within hours. The black woman who was killed may not have been armed but she wasn’t exactly harmless. (NY Daily News)

Officers in Bayview on Thursday were conducting a “stolen vehicle and break-in abatement” patrol when they spotted a stolen passenger vehicle parked on Elmira Street around 9:45 a.m., Officer Giselle Talkoff told the Daily News.

The female driver took off as two officers approached and then crashed into a parked truck some 100 feet away, witnesses recounted to police investigating the scene. The two cops approached the wrecked car, which the driver was “moving back and forth” in an attempt to dislodge from the truck on the dead-end street.

This is yet another case of cops trying to enforce the law and finding themselves in a split second decision situation. There is apparently no dispute that the car in question was stolen. When police approached the driver, rather than getting out and arguing that she was innocent, The driver immediately hit the gas and attempted to flee. Smashing into some other vehicles, she then began moving the car “backward and forward” as officers approached, intending to take her into custody. Was she trying to free an entangled vehicle or was she going to run down the police officers? A car is a lethal weapon when the driver wishes it to be, so the police have to take that into consideration. One officer reportedly fired a single shot during the encounter, leading to the unfortunate death of the suspect.

As I already said, a full investigation is warranted, but kicking the Chief of Police to the curb over the incident within 24 hours seems a bit extreme. And the reaction from the police once again reinforces the fears that many law enforcement officers have expressed around the nation.

This decision comes at a moment of increased scrutiny for how police use force, amid nationwide calls for reform and an influential law enforcement group pushing stronger de-escalation training, though police unions and some other officers and chiefs have said they worry such a proposal could lead to dangerous hesitation.

“Dangerous hesitation.” Otherwise known as the Ferguson Effect. Should a car thief be allowed to speed off into the city after already smashing into a couple of vehicles? In a time when police killings have been in the news in most major cities should the officers wait around to see whether or not the woman was trying to run them over or simply escape? A more measured approach to investigating incidents such as this one is called for. Meanwhile, San Francisco is in search of a replacement Chief who presumably will have some magical approach to law enforcement which makes all these problems go away.

Good luck with that.

(The original version of this article incorrectly identified the suspect in the police shooting last week. That name has been removed. Our apologies for the error.)


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