Former Portsmouth, Va., Police Chief Claims Her Forced Resignation Was Racially Motivated

Image for article titled Former Portsmouth, Va., Police Chief Claims Her Forced Resignation Was Racially Motivated
Photo: Stephen M. Katz (The Virginian-Pilot)

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


“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 in the four-page statement, according to the Virginian-Pilot. It reports:

In the letter, Chapman describes “external strife” between the community and the police department, saying she “knew the difficult task ahead” of her but was “up for the challenge.”

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

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 “under duress” and “without warning” or face termination. As severance, Chapman said she was offered two months 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.

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, “There will be no comment as this is a personnel matter.”

Chapman declined to elaborate further on what prompted her forced resignation but suggested it was motivated by “members of a highly influential fraternal organization” 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 isn’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.


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



A city that’s currently 53 PERCENT AFRICAN-AMERICAN just forced its AFRICAN-AMERICAN POLICE CHIEF to resign without publicizing cause. If you thought community trust in law enforcement was low before...