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New Acting SFPD Chief Says Reforms Are Top Priorities

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- Newly appointed acting San Francisco Police Chief Toney Chaplin Friday said his top priorities would be rolling out body cameras and completing a review of use of force policies now underway.

Speaking at a press conference in Chinatown Friday afternoon, Chaplin said he planned to move forward with plans to roll out body cameras this year.

"I think it's going to be a huge thing to help us out," he said of the cameras. "It's not going to solve everything, but it will give us another look at these things happening from the point of view of the officers."

Chaplin, a department veteran with 26 years of experience, was appointed Thursday following the resignation of Chief Greg Suhr, who stepped down in the wake of a fatal officer-involved shooting in the Bayview District earlier that day.

"Yesterday was one of the hardest days of my career," said Chaplin. "Not only because a girl died, some officers' lives are upside down because of it, and I watched a person who has dedicated three decades of their life finally have to call it a career,"

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee was on hand to show his support for the city's new top cop.

Chaplin has previously served as head of the homicide detail and deputy chief in charge of the department's Professional Standards and Principled Policing Bureau. In the latter position he has taken a leading role in reform efforts within the department, including the review of use of force policies launched earlier this year, which he described as "the biggest changes in the San Francisco Police Department in over 30 years."

Chaplin said if the Department of Justice approves the reform policy he helped put together, it will be historic.

"All of that sounds enforcement heavy, but 90 percent of those responsibilities were working with the community, 10 percent was enforcement and I'm going to bring that to my role as chief," said Chaplin.

Suhr had been the subject of repeated calls for his resignation since the December police shooting of Mario Woods, also in the Bayview District. Those calls had intensified following a scandal involving the release of racist text messages exchanged among officers and another fatal police shooting in the Mission District in April, which killed 45-year-old Luis Gongora.

Mayor Ed Lee, however, stood by Suhr and his efforts to reform the police department -- until Thursday's shooting.

Chaplin said that he had had a personal conversation with Suhr on Thursday, which he described as one of the toughest days in his career. He said the former chief told him to "take the reins and get the department to where it needs to be."

Those words, he said, carried "a lot of weight and a lot of responsibility."

Police Commission President Suzy Loftus, who appeared with Chaplin Friday, said she was meeting with the mayor Friday to discuss launching a search for a new permanent police chief.

Loftus said she was confident that the transition to a new chief would not disrupt the reform process, especially given that Chaplin was in charge of them under Suhr.

"The situation we find ourselves in is beyond one chief or individual, and my focus is really on ensuring we can make these reforms and get to a better place," Loftus said.

Chaplin said he had not yet considered whether he would seek the permanent position.

Former SF Police Chief Tony Ribera held the job for three years. He said from one Tony to another, Chaplin is the right man for the job.

"You have to take charge of the disciplinary process. Critical," said Ribera. "He has a reputation for being very honest. He has a reputation for working hard. So those are two very important things from my perspective."

Martin Halloran, the President of the San Francisco Police Officers Association, also thinks Chaplin will do a good job, but admitted he faces many challenges.

"He's been thrown into the deep end of the pool at a very difficult time in the San Francisco Police Department, said Halloran.

Both Ribera and Halloran think going outside the SFPD would be a big mistake.

"Never worked. Let's not go down that road for ultimately failure with another outside chief," said Halloran.

Police did not release further details Friday on the circumstances surrounding Thursday's fatal shooting, in which a 27-year-old woman in a stolen car was shot by police officers attempting to detain her.

Chaplin said he expected to meet with community members to discuss the shooting and release the names of the officers involved sometime next week.

TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Bay City News Service contributed to this report.

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