First Black woman Virginia Police Chief says she was forced to resign for calling out racism

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A former Virginia Police Chief who hailed as the first black woman to lead a city police department in Portsmouth alleges she was pushed out of her job and forced to resign because of her efforts to end racism and discrimination within the ranks of her department.

Former Portsmouth Police Chief Tonya Chapman is outraged that she was pressured to resign and released a four-page statement condemning the department for its treatment against her, according to the Virginian-Pilot.

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“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,” Chapman wrote according to the outlet.

“Some quite frankly did not like taking direction from an African American female,” she wrote, including that there were “some politically connected individuals that never had confidence in me in the first place.”

Chapman said in her letter that she was aware and “knew the difficult task ahead” with the job because of the strained relationship between the Portsmouth community and the police but was “up for the challenge.”

However, she resigned unexpectedly on March 18 with no immediate word on what exactly was the tipping point that prompted her to quit.

“I assure you I did not ‘quit’ on the citizens of Portsmouth,” Chapman wrote. “My mother did not raise me to be a quitter.”

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Chapman did indicate however, there were other forces at play suggesting that “members of a highly influential fraternal organization” were allegedly behind forcing her out and had long tried to discredit her abilities.

According to The Pilot, City Manager Lydia Pettis Patton demanded that Chapman issue a pre-written letter of her resignation, “under duress” and “without warning” or face termination. Chapman said she was offered two months severance pay.

“Citizens of Portsmouth, I ask you, if I had done anything to warrant my immediate dismissal, would I have been offered a severance?” she wrote in her statement.

Before resigning, Chapman had served three years in her position.

Chapman may be out but isn’t done fighting. She is requesting that her severance pay is extended to six months and also that receives favorable recommendations for future employment.

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