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Police Chief Says She Was Forced Out by Racist Officers

Tonya Chapman was Virginia's first black female police chief
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 27, 2019 3:34 AM CDT
In this Monday, Feb. 22, 2016 photo, Portsmouth Police Chief Tonya Chapman makes remarks after an oath of office ceremony at the City Council Chambers in Portsmouth, Va.   (Hyunsoo Leo Kim/The Virginian-Pilot via AP)
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(Newser) – The first black woman to lead a police force in Virginia history has resigned after three years—but she says it wasn't her decision. Tonya Chapman says she was forced out by racist officers in the Portsmouth Police Department who resisted her efforts to change a culture of "bias, acts of systemic racism, discriminatory practices, and abuse of authority," the New York Times reports. "Some quite frankly did not like taking direction from an African American female," Chapman wrote in a letter Monday. "I can assure you that I did not 'quit' on the citizens of Portsmouth," she wrote. "My mother did not raise me to be a quitter."

Chapman said she signed a resignation letter "under duress" after city manager L. Pettis Patton told her she had lost the confidence of the department and would be fired if she didn't sign the pre-written letter, NBC reports. Around 52% of Portsmouth's 95,000 people are black, according to census data. Chapman said racial tensions in the department became "blatantly apparent" in 2016 after a white former officer who fatally shot an unarmed black teenager was convicted of manslaughter. The former chief also said she faced opposition from "members of a highly influential fraternal organization," which she declined to name. The city's police union says it "wanted to establish a good working relationship" with Chapman and never called for a vote of no confidence in her. (Read more Virginia stories.)

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