San Francisco Police Chief Forced Out After Killing of Black Woman by Police Officer

San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr was forced to resign by the city's mayor on Thursday after an officer fatally shot a Black woman who crashed a stolen car.

For months, Suhr and Mayor Ed Lee have faced mounting criticism—including an internationally publicized hunger strike demanding Suhr’s resignation—after the city police kept repeating a pattern of shooting and killing non-white San Franciscans in confrontations with the cops.  

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

Local radio reports said protesters who gathered outside City Hall cheered when the news of Suhr’s resignation broke. Only hours before, Suhr told reporters that this morning two officers approached a 27-year-old woman as she sat in a car that had been reported as stolen. The woman apparently tried to drive off, crashing into another vehicle fewer than 100 feet away. She was shot by one officer after refusing to comply with their orders, Suhr said. She later died at an area hospital.

San Francisco’s police have shot and killed a handful of non-white city residents in recent years, always giving the same rationale that exonerates them under the law—that they had to use deadly force because they felt threatened. Protesters have vehemently said that the city police need to learn how to use less draconian measures in dealing with unstable people and situations.

Thursday's tragic killing occurred in the historically African-American Bayview neighborhood, also the site of the first of three police shootings in the city since December. Mario Woods, whose family has sued the city, was holding a knife and refused to drop it. But a bystander video that went viral afterward showed Woods was surrounded by police and killed in a deluge of gunfire. 

The police shootings of non-white San Franciscans is only the tip of the iceberg in racially biased policing, according to the hunger strikers who demanded Suhr’s resignation before Thursday’s shooting. Police sents text messages comparing Woods to an animal who deserved to die. And the city also has a record of arresting young Black women much more frequently than white women.

However, until Thursday’s shooting the mayor has repeatedly defended Suhr and rejected all demands for his firing. Lee repeatedly said that Suhr was working to reform the department and defended the progress he had been making.

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