Acting San Francisco Police Chief Toney Chaplin: Reforms are the priority

The new acting San Francisco Police Chief Toney Chaplin held a news conference Friday afternoon, saying he will do a top to bottom assessment to see what needs to change.

Acting Chief Chaplin said, “My priorities moving forward – reforms, reforms, reforms.” He said some reforms have already been implemented, and they're going to push the rest out. 

He said body camera rollout is a priority, “It’s not going to solve everything but it will give us another look at what’s happening, hopefully from the officer’s perspective.”

When asked about taking on the role of chief permanently, Acting Chief Chaplin said he was focusing on the present and what needs to happen in the department right now. 

Chaplin is filling the role of former Police Chief Greg Suhr. He said they had a personal conversation Thursday, "He told me to take the reins… and get us all to a better place. It sounds like a small amount of words but they carry a lot of weight and a lot of responsibility.”

On Thursday Mayor Ed Lee announced Chaplin, 47, a deputy chief, would take command of the city's police force while it searches for a permanent replacement.

The announcement came hours after a black woman was fatally shot in the city's Bayview District. Mayor Ed Lee announced the resignation of Suhr. He said he hoped the city would heal after mounting outrage over the police department's use of deadly force.  

"I have previously expressed confidence in Chief Suhr because I know he agrees with and understands the need for reform,” Lee said. “But following this morning’s officer-involved shooting and my meeting with Chief Suhr (Thursday) afternoon, today I have arrived at a different question of how best to move forward."

The shooting that led to the resignation of Suhr occurred before 10 a.m. Thursday morning. Two officers in patrol cars were in the area looking for stolen cars and spotted the stolen vehicle on Elmira Street near Helena Street. The woman drove away but crashed into a truck less than 100 feet away, Suhr said during a press conference.

The officers tried to pull the woman out, and at some point a sergeant fired one shot, striking her, according to Suhr.

A witness told police the woman was moving the car back and forth while they tried to pull her out. Suhr said it was not yet clear if she was armed or threatening officers.

This comes as a group of five, known as the Frisco Five, earlier this month concluded a hunger strike to protest police brutality. About 100 people gathered two weeks ago at San Francisco City Hall to march and protest over police use of force after five people ended a hunger strike three days ago after nearly 17 days without solid food.

The group had been calling for the resignation of Police Chief Suhr or his termination by the mayor over the department's ongoing use of police force.  The protestors have accused Suhr and Mayor Lee of fostering a climate in which officers are too quick to shoot people of color.   

Police maintain the shooting deaths of Mario Woods, Alex Nieto and Luis Gongora,  at the hands of police were justified and that Woods and Gongora had knives and refused to drop them. Nieto, they said was armed with a Taser, but police initially thought he was reaching for a firearm.

Mayor Lee has promised $17.5 million to reform the police department, which includes funding for Tasers, pending the police commission's approval, as part of the strategy to reduce officer-involved shootings.

About $11 million will go to violence prevention programs over the next two years.

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