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San Francisco Names New Police Chief After 3rd Police Shooting

  • Wayne Lee

A patch and badge are seen on the uniform of a San Francisco police officer during a news conference Friday, April 29, 2016, in San Francisco.

A patch and badge are seen on the uniform of a San Francisco police officer during a news conference Friday, April 29, 2016, in San Francisco.

San Francisco has a new police chief tasked with healing strained relations with the city's African-American community after another in a series of fatal police shootings.

Acting Police Chief Toney Chaplin replaced Greg Suhr, who resigned Thursday under pressure after an officer's fatal shooting of an African-American woman sparked new outrage.

It was the city's third fatal police shooting since December and followed months of protests and a scandal over racist text messages sent by police officers.

"These officer-involved shootings, justified or not, have forced our city to open its eyes to questions of when and how police use lethal force. The last many months, every day, I have asked myself: Is the path to reform best advanced by the department’s current leadership?" Mayor Ed Lee said in a statement.

University of Pittsburgh law professor and policing expert David Harris told VOA the police chief "serves at the pleasure" of the mayor, so the mayor can exercise his authority to replace the chief if he believes the department is not "heading in the right direction."

"The problems seen in San Francisco, use of force, and the evidence that some officers felt free to express racist sentiments point toward a need for changes in the department's culture and systems. That takes time, even with very good leadership," Harris added.

When mayors are pressured to take quick action in these types of circumstances, some resort to firing their police chiefs, Harris said, "even when the whole department needs to be changed. The mayor can't fire the whole department, so the chief is fired."

Thursday's shooting resulted in the death of a 27-year old woman in a suspected stolen car. There was no immediate indication that the woman was armed, and no weapon was found in her possession.

Police say two officers who were involved in a project to recover stolen vehicles tried to arrest the woman after spotting the car. She drove away before the officers could speak with her and crashed into a parked utility truck 100 feet away, according to witnesses. One officer shot and killed her as the other officer tried to pull her out of the car.

The police chief resignation was the latest in a series of recent resignations by other police department heads who were forced to step down amid public outrage over fatal police shootings of African-Americans.

Jesusemen Oni contributed to this report.

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