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San Francisco Police Chief Resigns After Fatal Shooting Of Black Woman

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

San Francisco's police chief is latest head of a major city police department to resign amid controversy over racially-charged scandals and shootings involving police officers. Greg Suhr stepped down last night hours after an officer shot and killed a 27-year-old black women who was driving a suspected stolen car. From member station KQED in San Francisco, Alex Emslie reports.

ALEX EMSLIE, BYLINE: Greg Suhr slipped from a position of almost universal respect in San Francisco to a forced retirement. It's been a long saga that includes violently racist and homophobic text messages swapped by city police officers. Those came to light through criminal investigations - also the department's inability to fire many of those officers after allowing a statute of limitations to lapse.

And there's been a string of deadly police shootings, Suhr's descriptions consistently backing his officers only to be disproved by later evidence. But until now, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee has said Suhr was best positioned to oversee a massive reform effort currently underway. Then the mayor changed his mind.

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ED LEE: The progress that we've made has been meaningful, but it hasn't been fast enough, not for me and not for Greg. And that's why I have asked Chief Suhr for his resignation.

EMSLIE: The chief's departure wasn't apparent even a few hours before the mayor's announcement. That's when Suhr addressed reporters at the scene of the city's second deadly police shooting this year.

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GREG SUHR: This is exactly the thing that we're trying with all of our reforms and everything else to avoid.

EMSLIE: But the pressure had been mounting. Four city supervisors recently called for the chief's replacement. David Campos is one of them.

DAVID CAMPOS: Bottom line is that we have gotten to a point where there was no - any other outcome other than the chief of police moving on.

EMSLIE: Calls for the chief to resign weren't confined to city hall. There was also building community pressure manifested in a 17-day hunger strike outside of San Francisco police station. Edwin Lindo was 1 of 5 people who abstained from solid food, calling for Suhr's ouster.

EDWIN LINDO: Never doubt the power of the community. It is relentless. It is sophisticated, and we know what our demands are.

EMSLIE: San Francisco now has an interim police chief - Tony Chaplin. He's an African-American with 27 years on the force. There are already strong calls from officials and activists alike for the city to conduct a national search for a new permanent police chief. They say an outsider would be best suited to reform the department. For NPR New, I'm Alex Emslie in San Francisco. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.