Nearly 30 years after joining the San Francisco Police Department, Greg Suhr became the city’s top cop today when he was sworn in by Mayor Ed Lee.
Suhr joined the department in June 1981 and has worked in a variety of positions, from captain of the Mission Station and deputy chief in charge of field operations to overseeing homeland security at the city’s Public Utilities Commission and, most recently, captain at the Bayview Station.
Suhr, a fourth-generation San Franciscan, said following his swearing-in ceremony at City Hall this morning that it’s “a dream come true” and “the biggest honor” to head the Police Department of the city in which he grew up.
The selection of a permanent police chief caps off a period of upheaval in San Francisco that began in November when Mayor Gavin Newsom and District Attorney Kamala Harris were elected the state’s lieutenant governor and attorney general, respectively.
Before he left the mayor’s office in January, Newsom selected then-police Chief George Gascon to take over as district attorney.
Gascon’s second-in-command, Jeff Godown, served as interim chief in the meantime, while the Police Commission nominated three finalists for new Mayor Ed Lee to choose from.
After weeks of deliberation over the three choices–which included Suhr, another internal candidate and someone from outside the department–Lee decided on Suhr, who he said will be “a reformer from the inside out.”
Suhr has had his share of drama during his 30 years in the department. While serving as deputy chief, he was indicted in 2003 as part of an incident involving off-duty police officers that was dubbed “Fajita-gate,” but was cleared of the charge the next year.
In 2005, he was reassigned to the homeland security position with the SFPUC after an incident in which a police officer was seriously injured at an anarchist protest. Heather Fong, who was police chief at the time, said the reassignment was not related to that incident.
Lee said today that those “issues were vetted very, very thoroughly” before he was selected.
Suhr is also taking over the department at a time when it is dealing with an FBI investigation into alleged misconduct by officers that was captured on various surveillance videos during drug busts at residential hotels in the city.
The videos, released by Public Defender Jeff Adachi’s office last month, appear to show conflicting information between police reports and what is seen in the footage.
Dozens of cases have been dropped due to the allegations, which involve eight plainclothes officers from the department’s Southern Station and has prompted the indefinite suspension of plainclothes operations at that station.
Suhr said, “I want all my officers to be … of character that is beyond reproach, and we will give no quarter to dishonest cops.”
The police chief serves at the leisure of the mayor, but Lee, who has said he does not plan to run for reelection in November, said today that he thinks Suhr will be around long-term regardless of who is the next mayor.
“While I’m an interim mayor, I don’t make interim decisions,” Lee said.
Suhr, who was lauded at today’s swearing-in ceremony by some of the candidates who have announced a run for mayor, including Board of Supervisors President David Chiu and former Supervisor Bevan Dufty, declined to predict how things will play out after the November election.
“It’s my first day,” he said. “However this story ends, with a little bit of luck it’s not ending” any time soon.
As for Godown, Suhr said he will return to being the assistant chief of operations, the position he held when Gascon was chief.
Dan McMenamin, Bay City News