More details about SFPD chief’s alleged history of “skirting the law” come from whistleblower suit 

SFPD Police Chief Greg Suhr - SF EXAMINER FILE PHOTO
  • SF Examiner file photo
  • SFPD Police Chief Greg Suhr
Police Chief Greg Suhr’s history of allegedly “skirting the law” came further into focus with the release this week of a document detailing much of his major disciplinary history.

The document — a motion from a 2009 case before the Police Commission — was made public as part of a whistleblower case against Suhr filed last year by former police lawyer Kelly O’Haire.

The suit alleges O’Haire was fired soon after Suhr became chief in 2011 because she proceeded with the 2009 prosecution of Suhr, stemming from a domestic violence incident he allegedly mishandled. O’Haire’s investigation found issues in Suhr’s record and prompted her to recommended his termination. Suhr only received a five-day suspension. The City and Suhr argue O’Haire, who was terminated weeks after Suhr’s appointment by Mayor Ed Lee, was fired for budgetary reasons. Suhr said Thursday the “contentions are simply not true and will be shown to be untrue at trial.”

The document released this week was originally filed by O’Haire in the 2009 domestic violence incident. She alleged Suhr failed to arrest the perpetrator, didn’t file a police report and didn’t take the victim — a friend of the chief — to the hospital, even though her collarbone was broken and she had been strangled.

The document also contends Suhr, before he led the department, failed to report the harassment of a gay officer and violated department policy by allowing the videotaping of protesters. In addition, the document includes more details of his alleged failed effort to attain security clearance by lying to the FBI.

Plus, the document reveals Suhr’s alleged thoughts about leading women in the Police Department. Officer Lloyd Martin allegedly heard Suhr call then-Deputy Chief Mindy Pengel a “man hater” who was “waiting for the chief to die so that she could take over,” and heard Suhr call then Chief Heather Fong the “Dragon Lady.”

ALLEGED FAILURE TO REPORT HARASSMENT

In January 2005, Suhr allegedly failed to report that another officer may have been harassed because of his sexual orientation, according to the document.

Martin asked Suhr about returning to the Tactical Company after he transferred from the unit for failing to get a perfect score on the firearms test. He told Suhr he had been harassed there for his “sexual orientation and he felt that his prior situation at the Tactical Company created a hostile work environment.”

Suhr told Martin to file a grievance to get back into the unit. But when Martin learned his time to file a grievance had expired, he asked Suhr about transferring a second time. Suhr then told him to write a memo asking for a transfer in lieu of an investigation.

ALLEGED LIES TO THE FBI

In November 2005, while Suhr was assigned to the Public Utilities Commission, the department was informed by the FBI that had Suhr contacted them. According to the document, Suhr allegedly lied to the FBI to get security clearance for a unit he was not part of and did so knowing he needed the chief’s OK before applying of such clearance.

FBI Special Agent Nadine Nakamura said that “Suhr called her and identified himself as a deputy chief of police who needed a top secret clearance because he was either on or going to be on the Joint Terrorism Task Force.” Nakamura thought directly contacting her, as Suhr did, was suspicious. When she asked him how he’d come to call her, Suhr said at first he could not recall. Suhr then gave the name of another agent. Nakamura then contacted that agent who said he did not know Suhr, Suhr was not on the JTTF and that Suhr needed a letter from the Chief to be considered for such clearance.

VIDEOTAPING PROTESTERS

In late 2002 and early 2003 Suhr supervised and allowed the videotaping of anti-war protesters without proper approval, which is required by department policy governing First Amendment activities, according to the document.

Suhr later took part in narrating a showing of the tapes to the Los Angeles Police Department and copies were given to the LAPD and the Sacramento police, also a violation of department policy.

The department was later notified of these actions by an audit performed by Office of Citizen Complaints.

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE CASE

The document also further details the domestic violence case that O’Haire first looked into.

According to the document, at 1 a.m. Feb. 1, 2009 a female friend of then-Deputy Chief Suhr called him on his cell while he was asleep at his girlfriend’s house.

She asked him to pick her up from her boyfriend’s house in San Francisco. Suhr, who was off duty, drove his department issued car to get his friend from Mark Roppo’s home. Once he’d picked her up, Suhr said she had to file a police report and that she should get medical aid. She refused. Suhr then drove her home and checked for Roppo, since he had a key, before Suhr left.

On Feb. 2 the victim told Suhr she wanted to file a police report. Suhr then arranged, through several intermediaries, for her to file a report at the Northern Station even though the incident occurred in the Southern District. Suhr neither reported the incident to the captain of the Southern Station nor his superior officers. In the victim’s report, Suhr’s name was not mentioned. Instead he was only mentioned as a friend. Roppo was arrested that same day. He was later convicted of attempted murder.

After an inspector interviewed the victim Feb. 3, Suhr’s superiors were informed of his actions, which were against department policy.

In a detailed interview with that same inspector, the victim said she got in an argument with Roppo, which quickly developed into violence. Roppo allegedly picked her up and threw her against a door inside his home and then slapped her face and threw her on the floor. Roppo got on top of her and banged her head on the floor and began to suffocate her. “Roppo repeatedly told her, ‘You’re gonna die tonight,’” noted the document. At one point the victim armed herself with a knife and Roppo told her to stab him. When she lost control of the knife, he threw it at her hitting her in the head with the handle.

The victim later credited Suhr with saving her life.

The document states that Suhr made a series of failures during the incident: He did not tell his superiors, failed to preserve the crime scene and did not take a report; he did not get her medical help, or arrest Roppo.

Jury selection in the civil trial is expected to begin Friday.

About The Author

Jonah Owen Lamb

Jonah Owen Lamb

Bio:
Born and raised on a houseboat in Sausalito, Lamb has written for newspapers in New York City, Utah and the San Joaquin Valley. He was most recently an editor at the San Luis Obispo Tribune for nearly three years. He has written for The S.F. Examiner since 2013 and covers criminal justice and planning.
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