The first African-American woman to serve as a police chief in Virginia wrote in a four-page letter Monday that she was forced to resign in a move she believes was racially motivated.
“I can assure you that I did not ‘quit’ on the citizens of Portsmouth. My mother did not raise me to be a quitter,” wrote the former Portsmouth police chief, Tonya Chapman. “She raised me to be a strong woman. As such, my resignation was not tendered under my own volition. This was a forced resignation and our City Manager was the conduit.”Tonya Chapman, Police Chief
Powerful State Sen. Louise Lucas is calling on the city council to vote no confidence in City Manager Dr. Lydia Pettis-Patton over her handling of the resignation of former police chief Tonya Chapman.
This is the second African-American police chief forced out of their position. Henderson, Nevada police chief Latesha Watson faced scrutiny when she called for a change in how her department handles office involved shootings.
Like Watson, Chapman faced scrutiny for wanting to change her departments culture.
Chapman, who became chief of the city’s police force in 2016, said she met some resistance in her efforts to change a police department culture that, she said, included “bias and acts of systemic racism, discriminatory practices and abuse of authority.”
“Some quite frankly did not like taking direction from an African American female,” Chapman wrote.
These “racial tensions” within the department became “blatantly apparent” after a white officer fatally shot a black man in 2015, Chapman wrote. The officer in the incident was fired and indicted on a charge of first-degree murder, but was later found guilty of a lesser manslaughter charge.
Locally, Jacqueline Seabrooks, who is also African-American, successfully led the Inglewood and Santa Monica police departments as their chief, and was highly respected by her officers. Despite record officer involved shootings (OIS) occurring on her watch, while with IPD, she never publicly discussed “changing department culture” and/or “changing how OIS were investigated”.
To save face, both Henderson and Portsmouth Police Department replaced their outgoing African-American police chiefs with another Black face. That’s code for “see we aren’t racist, we made another Black person our chief of police”. The first order of business for interim police chief Angela Greene was to proclaim “there is no racism in the Portsmouth Police Department”. Yeah right.