As attorney John Burris reveals SFPD sergeant transferred to Bayview to ‘kill niggers,’ Supervisor Jane Kim calls for new police chief

Civil Rights Attorney John Burris, Mario Woods’ mother Gwen Woods and the Justice for Alex Nieto Coalition call for Attorney General Kamala Harris to investigate SFPD in light of continued systemic racism

Civil rights attorney John Burris counsels and comforts Gwen Woods, mother of Mario Woods, executed firing squad-style by five officers on Dec. 2, 2015. – Photo: Jeff Chiu, AP
Civil rights attorney John Burris counsels and comforts Gwen Woods, mother of Mario Woods, executed firing squad-style by five officers on Dec. 2, 2015. – Photo: Jeff Chiu, AP

San Francisco, May 11 – Civil Rights attorney John Burris, the Justice for Mario Woods Coalition, Minister Christopher Muhammad, the Frisco 5, Gwen Woods, mother of Mario Woods, the Justice for Alex Nieto Coalition and other community groups expressed their concern and outrage at a press conference on the steps of the San Francisco Hall of Justice today about the most recent bombshell of racist threats made by a San Francisco Police Department sergeant.

“The tipping point in SFPD’s seemingly never ending scandal came this week,” announced Burris, “when it was revealed that Sgt. Lawrence Kempinski, a 17-year department veteran, told fellow officers that he transferred to the Bayview Station in order to ‘kill niggers.’”

“The tipping point in SFPD’s seemingly never ending scandal came this week,” announced Burris, “when it was revealed that Sgt. Lawrence Kempinski, a 17-year department veteran, told fellow officers that he transferred to the Bayview Station in order to ‘kill niggers.’”

The community demands California Attorney General Kamala Harris step in and address what John Burris calls a “shocking and outrageous racist threat by a disgraced SFPD sergeant.” Burris contends this most recent racist bombshell is evidence of deep seated and systemic racial bias within the ranks of SFPD.

At the press conference, Burris and other community members asked the Attorney General’s Office and Department of Justice Special Investigation Unit to re-evaluate their position regarding his previous request for action. Burris and the community demand independent investigations into SFPD’s documented racist, bigoted and toxic environment and the unwarranted shootings of Alex Nieto, Mario Woods, Amilcar Lopez and Luis Gongora Pat.

Supervisor Jane Kim: Time to launch search for new chief of police

On Sept. 22, 2015, San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón, Supervisor Jane Kim, University of San Francisco President Paul Fitzgerald and Police Chief Greg Suhr announced a new campus sexual assault initiative. Supervisor Kim’s decision to call for a new police chief today was prompted by a highly critical review of the SFPD by a three-judge panel convened by DA Gascón. – Photo: Anna Vignet, The Guardsman

San Francisco, May 11 – In the wake of a recent independent report citing systemic problems in the San Francisco Police Department, Supervisor Jane Kim today urged the mayor and the San Francisco Police Commission to launch a comprehensive search for a new police chief so there can be an orderly transition to leadership able to implement needed reforms.

The preliminary report from the Blue Ribbon Panel on Transparency, Accountability, and Fairness in Law Enforcement, composed of three highly regarded retired judges convened by District Attorney George Gascón, found serious problems in areas ranging from discipline, training, hiring and oversight to relations with communities of color.

Kim issued the following statement in calling for the launch of a search for a new chief:

“A panel of retired judges has just found comprehensive problems in the department that must be addressed with new training, a new culture and new leadership. These findings are coming on the heels of weeks of protests from individuals and community leaders who have grave misgivings over whether the current department leadership can fairly work with all communities in our city.

“It is clear that we need a change to address these systemic problems and bring our city together.

“Chief Greg Suhr has served San Francisco for over 30 years and we should thank him for that service. But even he must acknowledge that leading a culture shift in that department would be easier and faster if there was new leadership there.

“It is time to launch a search for a new chief who can implement fundamental reform.

“It is time to launch a search for a new chief who can implement fundamental reform.” – Supervisor Jane Kim

“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.

“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. And we certainly won’t be able to address the day-to-day problems facing our city such as the spike in property crime.

Supervisor David Campos’ resistance to the call of the Frisco 5 and supporters for the firing of Police Chief Greg Suhr at an explosive meeting of the Board of Supervisors on May 3 has been replaced by his call today for a new chief. – Photo: Lola M. Chavez, Mission Local
Supervisor David Campos’ resistance to the call of the Frisco 5 and supporters for the firing of Police Chief Greg Suhr at an explosive meeting of the Board of Supervisors on May 3 has been replaced by his call today for a new chief. – Photo: Lola M. Chavez, Mission Local

“We cannot allow loyalty to a single individual overshadow doing what is right for San Francisco. Our loyalty must be for the people of San Francisco and the rank and file officers who serve ably and deserve top-notch leadership.

“Simply asking for new training or new money is not enough. We need new leadership as well – and to make that shift in a way that protects the public and our police officers, we should launch a national search at once.

“Perhaps we will find a candidate from the department who is ready to lead change. Perhaps we will not. But we owe it to the public and the police to find the very best leadership for our department.”

According to Mission Local, Supervisor David Campos today joined Kim in calling for Chief Suhr to step down over mounting citywide tensions regarding allegations of systemic racism and the misuse of force within the police department.

“Just a week ago when the Frisco 5 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. …

“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.”

Civil rights attorney John Burris can be reached at john.burris@johnburrislaw.com and Supervisor Jane Kim at Jane.Kim@sfgov.org.