Supervisor David Campos today joined Supervisor Jane Kim in calling for Police Chief Greg Suhr to step down over mounting citywide tensions regarding allegations of systemic racism and the misuse of force within the police department.
Supervisors John Avalos and Eric Mar also called for the replacement of Chief Suhr later on Wednesday, bringing to four the number of supervisors who are calling for a new police chief.
Just a week ago when the so-called Frisco Five hunger strikers addressed the Board of Supervisors after an 800-strong march to City Hall, Campos said firing the police chief would do little to advance systemic reform of the department.
On Wednesday, Campos said multiple calls for the police chief’s job have turned the conversation on systemic reform into a “circus” and that such reform “is not going to be implemented by Chief Suhr because Chief Suhr has become a distraction.”
Campos said he changed his position after reading preliminary findings of a review panel released on Monday, which criticized the police department for systemic problems of racial bias and arbitrary discipline.
The Blue Ribbon Panel, consisting of three judges and seven law firms who volunteered their time, was assembled by District Attorney George Gascón to scrutinize police practices.
“For me the Blue Ribbon Panel is a game changer,” Campos said on Wednesday. “I don’t see how [Suhr] can remain as chief of police and implement the changes needed. At a minimum there needs to be a new head of the police department.”
Campos questioned Mayor Ed Lee on the preliminary findings yesterday during a Board of Supervisors meeting, asking the mayor to fund an independent unit within the District Attorney’s Office dedicated to police shootings. The mayor said he would not take a stand because he had not yet read the findings.
The panel found that the department conducts “stop and frisk” searches and failed to internally review bias following the 2015 revelation that police officers were sending racist text messages.
The panel also found that discipline within the department lacks transparency, hiring and promotion practices are biased, and data and use-of-force policies are antiquated.
Supervisor Kim called for the police chief’s firing just hours earlier.
“The reality is that as long as Chief Suhr continues to lead this department, as long as we focus on City Hall politics rather than the best interests of the city, we will be unable to truly address the very serious problems raised by this report and the very serious concerns raised by residents of San Francisco,” Kim said in a written statement.
Campos said the findings were scathing.
“This is an indictment of the head of the police department and frankly this is an indictment of the mayor,” he said. The Board of Supervisors should take the lead in crafting police reform legislation, Campos said, because the mayor has been slow to do so.
He mentioned de-escalation training, body cameras, the creation of a public advocate, and changes to use-of-force policies, but also said systemic reform would require a cultural change that, so far, has proved elusive.
“The jury’s still out in terms of what it’s going to take,” Campos added, but said that the city had reached a “perfect storm” following the hunger strike of a group now known as the Frisco Five, multiple protests in their name, and the blue-ribbon panel findings, which he called “the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
“This will hopefully create the political pressure needed to push the systemic reform needed,” he said.
When asked specifically about the impact of the Frisco Five hunger strikers, Campos said they had played a role alongside other forces.
“I think that everyone has played a role,” Campos said. “All of that has helped.”
Kim urged the mayor and police commission to begin looking for Suhr’s replacement just two hours earlier on Wednesday.
“Many are calling for the Chief to be fired at once. I believe we could actually do worse than Chief Suhr, which is why we must begin this process at once so we can make sure the next chief can lead our department, reform it and do so in a way that rebuilds the community trust so vital to public safety,” she wrote.
Campos said he supports a national search for Suhr’s replacement but wanted it to happen quickly and hoped there would be a suitable interim chief in the meantime.
“I think we need to have a national search but we need to make sure this happens quickly,” Campos added.