Photo: Stephen M. Katz (The Virginian-Pilot)

Former Portsmouth Police Chief Tonya Chapmanā€”the first black woman to lead a city police department in the state of Virginiaā€”said in a statement on Monday that she was forced to resign after attempting to eradicate the racism and discriminatory behavior within her department.

ā€œHaving 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,ā€ Chapman wrote in the four-page statement, according to the Virginian-Pilot. It reports:

In the letter, Chapman describes ā€œexternal strifeā€ between the community and the police department, saying she ā€œknew the difficult task aheadā€ of her but was ā€œup for the challenge.ā€

ā€œSome quite frankly did not like taking direction from an African American female,ā€ she wrote, contending there were ā€œsome politically connected individuals that never had confidence in me in the first place.ā€

On March 18, Chapman abruptly resigned after three years on the job under the direction of City Manager Lydia Pettis Patton, who requested Chapman sign a pre-written resignation letter ā€œunder duressā€ and ā€œwithout warningā€ or face termination. As severance, Chapman said she was offered two months pay.

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


While City Councilor Elizabeth Psimas declined to comment, stating in an email that council members are prohibited from commenting on city employee personnel matters, Dana Woodson, a spokesperson for the city, told the Associated Press, ā€œThere will be no comment as this is a personnel matter.ā€

Chapman declined to elaborate further on what prompted her forced resignation but suggested it was motivated by ā€œmembers of a highly influential fraternal organizationā€ who had tried for years to instill a lack of confidence in her capabilities. She revealed that some of the individuals in question were recently disciplined for unnamed policy violations.


Representatives from the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives and the Portsmouth Chapter of the NAACP are both looking into rectifying the matter, while Chapman isnā€™t going down without a fight.

In her statement, she issued a formal request for her severance to be extended to six months, as well as a positive recommendation for future employment citing a 52-percent drop in homicides in 2016, among other accomplishments during her tenure.


ā€œI assure you I did not ā€˜quitā€™ on the citizens of Portsmouth,ā€ Chapman wrote. ā€œMy mother did not raise me to be a quitter.ā€