Suhr, 57, had already been under pressure to resign in the wake of two racist and homophobic texting scandals and controversial shootings of minority suspects by his officers.
His opponents have held protests and hunger strikes in an effort to force him to resign. Pressure mounted when four members of the Board of Supervisors joined in the calls for his resignation.
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The mayor had stood by Suhr for months, but that changed following the Thursday morning shooting and a subsequent meeting between the two men.
“I have arrived at a different conclusion to the question of how best to move forward,” Lee said in a prepared statement released Thursday afternoon. “That’s why I have asked Chief Suhr for his resignation. And in the best interest of the City he loves so much, he tendered his resignation earlier today.”
Suhr could not be reached for comment Thursday evening.
Lee named Deputy Chief Toney Chaplin the acting chief. Chaplin, who oversees the department’s Professional Standards and Principled Policing Bureau, is African-American.
The mayor praised the outgoing chief as “a model San Franciscan and a great man.”
“He will always have my respect,” Lee said.
Police union leader Martin Halloran, who worked alongside Suhr for years, praised “his integrity, morals and his deep commitment to the mission of public safety.”
“His retirement under pressure is an extreme loss to the department and the city, ” Halloran said.
“Chief Suhr, at the core, was and always will be a cop’s cop and dedicated to the men and women who don the uniform every day to serve and protect,” he said.
The mayor said his decision was influenced both by recent events, as well as chronic tension between the police and minority communities in the city.
“The past several months have shaken and divided our City, and tensions between law enforcement and communities of color that have simmered for too many years have come into full view,” the mayor’s statement read. “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.”
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He mentioned the most recent shooting that occurred Thursday morning in the predominantly African-American Bayview District. A 27-year-old woman in what police said was a stolen vehicle was fatally shot by a San Francisco police sergeant. It is unclear whether the woman was armed. The shooting remains under investigation.
“Though the facts are still emerging,” the mayor said, “the community is grieving, and I join them in that grief.”