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What’s next for San Francisco after its police chief’s resignation?

Following a string of officer-involved fatal shootings and a racist text scandal within the police department, San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee asked Police Chief Greg Suhr to step down. Suhr handed in his resignation on Thursday. San Francisco Chronicle reporter Vivian Ho joins Alison Stewart to discuss the next steps in police reform.

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  • ALISON STEWART, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR:

    Thursday, a San Francisco police officer shot and killed a woman who was suspected of driving a stolen car. The police later said that she was not armed and was not driving toward officers when she was shot.

    This followed other fatal police shootings in San Francisco, including that of Mario Woods back in December. Video from the Woods shooting had increased the pressure on police chief, Greg Suhr, to step down. And following Thursday's shooting, at the request of Mayor Ed Lee, Suhr turned in his resignation.

    For more on what this means for San Francisco and other police departments trying to implement reform, I'm joined from San Francisco by Vivian Ho of "The San Francisco Chronicle".

    Vivian, can you describe for me former Police Chief Suhr's reputation in the community and on the political level?

  • VIVIAN HO, THE SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE:

    Well, really that depends on who you ask. The chief has been around for a very long time. He had 35 years in the department. Before he rose to the ranks, he was a beat cop who spent a lot of time in a lot of these communities that are actually protesting him right now.

    A lot of the older members of these communities remember him and they love him and they still think of him as one of their own. But there are groups within that community who see him as a symbol of an archaic way of policing, bias way of policing, and a bad way that policing got to punish communities of color.

    Meanwhile, politically, he's had a series of scandals at him throughout his career, and each time he's found a way to rise above it and eventually make his way to chief.

  • ALISON STEWART:

    It's interesting that you mentioned those scandals. There has been a couple of different things. The shootings we discussed. Also, these racist and sexist messages, text messages that were sent through the department. So, was — his resignation, was it a result, a cumulative result, or was there one thing that really tipped the scales?

  • VIVIAN HO:

    It's really more of a cumulative result. Since December 2nd, since that shooting of Mario Woods, the community members have really been asking for his resignation for the first time. They would interrupt committee meetings. They would chant. They would call for it. In April 5th, after this, actually went on a hunger strike, calling for him to step down or for Mayor Ed Lee to fire him.

    Each time, the chief really dug his heels in. He said, you know, we have a series of reforms that we're putting in place. I want to oversee them and the man to do it.

  • ALISON STEWART:

    About those reforms, what kind of reforms had he started to implement or said he was going to implement?

  • VIVIAN HO:

    He and the police commission have reopened the department's use of force policy, looking at how officers use force, how they use the weapons they have and are really working to create a new policy that emphasizes the sanctity of life, de-escalation, creating time and distance, and resorting to lethal force as a very, very last resort.

  • ALISON STEWART:

    Obviously, there's a new police chief in place. Has he signaled any kind of plan going forward?

  • VIVIAN HO:

    Acting Chief Toney Chaplin was head of the Principled Policing Bureau before he was asked to step in as acting chief. He was looking into President Obama's 21st century policing recommendations. He was working with the Department of Justice, whose committee policing office is in San Francisco right now conducting collaborative review of the department.

    He made it clear on Friday at his first press conference that he very much wants to continue the reforms that were started under Greg Suhr and he is very committed to making sure that happens.

  • ALISON STEWART:

    Vivian Ho from "The San Francisco Chronicle" — thanks so much.

  • VIVIAN HO:

    Thank you.

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