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Many Big-City Police Chiefs Leaving Amid Calls For Reform

A headhunter asked Lashinda Stair, second-in-command at the Detroit Police Department if she was interested in becoming Louisville Police Chief. Her answer: “Absolutely not.” In a year of protests, defiant unions, and mayors who are quick to push out police chiefs, the job of running a police department has become less coveted. Lawenforcement leaders say what used to be a pinnacle of achievement is now a job in which it is difficult to make changes and easy to get blamed when things go wrong, the Wall Street Journal reports. “There’s a lot of folks that are hesitant when they see chiefs are getting beat up and getting thrown under the bus by their bosses,” said Houston Chief Art Acevedo, president of the Major Cities Chiefs Association.

Eighteen chiefs from the association’s 69 member cities have resigned, retired, been pushed out or fired amid protests and calls for police accountability and reform after George Floyd’s death. Replacing a police chief may be the simplest way to signal change in a department and is less difficult than making structural overhauls. The exodus has included chiefs in Louisville, Atlanta and Rochester, cities in which Blacks were killed by police and activists responded with protests and calls for change. Many chiefs have left in cities without controversial killings. Carmen Best, Seattle’s first Black female police chief, quit after the city council cut her budget and her pay. U. Reneé Hall, Dallas’s first Black female chief, resigned after criticism of the way Dallas officers handled protests. Chief Sylvia Moir is leaving Tempe, Az., after city officials said they wanted to go in a different direction. Chuck Wexler of the Police Executive Research Forum says, “When you have city after city losing their chief, how do you get the next generation to step up?”