Monday, May 04, 2015

Marina Times: Fire SFPD's Suhr, Mission Immigrant Killing Cited

I was between screenings at the San Francisco International Film Festival at the Clay Theater in Pacific Heights, which I how I came to find a print copy of the Marina Times with the front-page above-the-fold editorial calling for the firing of police chief Greg Suhr.

That alone was surprising as I believe this is the only news outlet in the City to demand Suhr be replaced as the top-cop and it was a paper far from the Mission, one I wrongly assumed would be pro-SFPD all the way, but it was one key factor in the call for his firing that really captured my attention.

Editor Susan Dyer Reynolds cites the killing by officers of the SFPD of a Mission immigrant from Central America, Amilcar Pérez-López, and Chief Suhr's outrageous mishandling of the death, as one reason why he has to go. Let's thank Dyer Reynolds for her voice of accountability and the diverse reasons behind her call for Suhr to lose his job. Excerpts from her essay in the Marina Times:

In 2003, Suhr was charged with conspiracy to obstruct justice in the “Fajitagate” scandal, where three off-duty officers were accused of beating up two men in the Marina District over a bag of Mexican food. Suhr was later cleared in that incident, but in 2005 then-Chief Heather Fong stripped Suhr of his Head of Patrol title after an officer was badly beaten and suffered a fractured skull responding to a protest. [...]

On a Friday night in 2009, then-Deputy Chief Suhr received a call from a female friend who said her boyfriend was beating and strangling her. The woman’s collarbone was broken, yet Suhr didn’t arrest the suspect and he waited until Sunday to file a report. [...] In March 2015, a judge refused to dismiss the lawsuit [stemming from the incident], saying a jury could conclude that Suhr retaliated against her illegally. He also ordered Suhr to testify. On April 24, just before jury selection began, the city settled the case for $725,000. [...]

[An aattorney for the family of 20-year-old Guatemalan immigrant Amilcar Pérez-López, who was killed by police in the Mission last February, announced the filing of a federal civil rights lawsuit that claims three eyewitnesses, post-shooting photographs, and an independent autopsy directly contradict Suhr’s account. The autopsy determined that all six bullets entered Pérez-López from behind, including one to the back of the head, while his arms were at his side. [...] Suhr told the community that Pérez-López was charging the officers with a knife held over his head, corroborating the report by his two plainclothes officers who said they shot a lunging, knife-wielding Pérez-López “in fear for their lives.” [...]

On March 13 2015, racist, homophobic and threatening text messages recovered from [a former officer convicted in a separate corruption trial] cell phone were revealed in a court filing by federal prosecutors [...] The texts implicated as many as 14 SFPD officers. [Ex-cop] Furminger repeatedly calls another officer a “fag,” and makes racist comments about African Americans, Mexicans, and Filipinos. [...] 

Despite all the disgraceful conduct under his watch, I have yet to hear a single official or rank-and-file officer call for Suhr’s resignation. This is in stark contrast to what happened to Fire Department Chief Joanne Hayes-White in October 2014, when firefighters voted that they had no confidence in her leadership and the fire commission met to discuss whether she should keep her job.

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