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PORTSMOUTH, Va. (AP) — The first black woman to lead a city police department in Virginia says she was forced out, accusing a small group of officers of “bias and acts of systemic racism, discriminatory practices and abuse of authority.”
Tonya Chapman released a four-page statement early Monday, a week after she abruptly resigned from the Portsmouth Police Department.
She says her attempts to change the culture consistently met with resistance from some members of police, some of whom “quite frankly did not like taking direction from an African American female.”
Despite working closely with the city manager during her three-year tenure, Chapman says the city manager made her resign “under duress” and without warning.
City Manager L. Pettis Patton did not immediately return a call Monday seeking comment.
Portsmouth, with a population of nearly 100,000 people, is about 52 percent black. Home to a large Navy medical center and a sprawling shipyard that serves the U.S. Navy, it sits across the Elizabeth River from Norfolk and is a short drive to the Atlantic Coast.
Chapman said she could not provide additional information about her forced resignation, but suggested it was driven by “members of a highly influential fraternal organization” who had tried unsuccessfully for more than two years to generate a vote of “no confidence” in her. She said some of those people were recently disciplined for policy violations.
Chapman said she knew running the police department would be a challenge, but became acutely aware of racial tensions within the ranks after a former officer was convicted in the 2015 shooting of a black man.
Officer Stephen Rankin shot and killed William Chapman II outside a Walmart. The 18-year-old was unarmed and had been suspected of shoplifting. Rankin, who is white, claimed self-defense, saying that Chapman knocked away his stun gun and then charged at him.
Rankin was convicted of voluntary manslaughter in 2016.
“Having been a member of two other law enforcement agencies, I have never witnessed the degree of bias and acts of systemic racism, discriminatory practices and abuse of authority in all of my almost 30-year career in law enforcement and public safety,” she wrote.
Her statement also included a list of crime reduction statistics and community engagement initiatives established during her tenure.
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