Former SFPD chief returns to political limelight to campaign for Suzy Loftus

Greg Suhr was forced to resign after continuing controversy over police shootings

Our City-by-the-Bay’s former police chief and San Francisco native, Greg Suhr, is stepping back into the political limelight — or at least, tip-toeing into it — to co-host a campaign event for District Attorney candidate Suzy Loftus.

That “reception in support of” Loftus, that many described to me as a fundraiser, is slated for Wednesday, September 25, according to an invitation making the rounds on social media.

It’s a gutsy move.

While Suhr is beloved on the West Side as a son of San Francisco and St. Ignatius College Preparatory High School alum, he’s also got a fair share of detractors, especially among people of color on the opposite side of The City whose community has a shaky relationship with the SFPD.

For a brief glimpse at how incensed people can get about our former chief, look no farther than 2017, when he tried to get a gig consulting on security for the Golden State Warriors. As soon as the move was publicly announced it was lambasted, and the Warriors and Suhr parted ways.

It’s been a rough road for Suhr, who resigned in 2016 from his 26-year career on the force and as chief at the behest of Mayor Ed Lee, after officers shot and killed several people of color in the line of duty in 2016. That included Mario Woods, Luis Gongora and Jessica Nelson Williams, for those keeping track.

Amid those deaths, protesters dubbed “The Frisco Five” staged a hunger strike calling for Suhr’s ouster, and led a march of hundreds to City Hall against him.

“If Suhr is a supporter of yours and you’re running for District Attorney, it shows me you’re about prosecuting black and brown folks and any of the corruption going on in the department,” said Equipto, a San Francisco rapper and activist and one of the hunger strikers. If someone is supported by Suhr, he said, “They’d be a police sympathizer to me. Some might say it’s OK to sympathize with police.”

Equipto ran into Loftus a few months ago, he said. She reached out to shake his hand and he declined, he noted.

Father Richard Smith, has long worked in the Mission District alongside those communities, often advocating for justice for those shot by SFPD. He has endorsed Loftus’ opponent, Chesa Boudin, and took umbrage at Loftus seeking support from Suhr.

“When Chief Suhr resigned after all the racist text messages and killings by police, many of us hoped for a new day in SFPD,” Smith told me. “We’re still a long way from implementing those reforms. And knowing that former Chief Suhr remains such a prominent influencer in the Loftus campaign is very discouraging for us. We had hoped the city was turning a page.”

Notably, Loftus formerly led the Police Commission. She’s also got a strong base of support on the West Side, and at various points has been rumored as a possible supervisor candidate there.

Political consultants have also said its a key battleground in her race against Chesa Boudin, Nancy Tung and Leif Dautch, as low voter turnout will favor the more conservative, dependable voters on that side of The City.

And generally, as a rule, folks on that side of The City still love Greg Suhr.

“When I was on the Police Commission, I worked with Greg to get body worn cameras for patrol officers and started the process to reform the use of force rules,” Loftus told me, Tuesday. “Those changes have resulted in a 30 percent decrease in use of force by SFPD. He joins reform advocates like Lateefah Simon, Officers for Justice, Supervisor Shamann Walton and Roma Guy in supporting me.”

He also isn’t the only co-host, which features a who’s-who of West Side notables like former Supervisor Annemarie Conroy, key to gaining support in the Sunset District, said Jim Ross, a long-time political consultant.

“This is the West Side movers and shakers list,” Ross said. “This is a real opportunity for Loftus to organize on the West Side of town.”

While everyone I talked to who is in-the-know about this event called it a fundraiser, Loftus’ campaign manager Lauren Feuerborn denied that descriptor and called it a “house party.”

So no checks will pass hands at this house party?

“I can’t guarantee we won’t raise any money, but that’s not the priority,” Feuerborn said.

Mayor London Breed, Sheriff Vicki Hennessy, and the Mayor’s Chief of Staff Sean Elsbernd are also guests and hosts on the list. Suhr co-hosted a similar event for Breed’s mayoral campaign.

Star studded, indeed.

On Guard prints the news and raises hell each week. Email Fitz at joe@sfexaminer.com, follow him on Twitter and Instagram @FitztheReporter, and Facebook at facebook.com/FitztheReporter.

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