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Virginia police chief abruptly resigns, then claims she was forced out because she is a black woman

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'Some...did not like taking direction from an African-American female'

Former Portsmouth Police Chief Tonya Chapman. (Image source: YouTube video screenshot)

The first black female police chief in Virginia resigned abruptly last week, with no details from her or the city about the reason. This week, the former chief said she was forced out of the department, and that race and gender were significant factors, according to WTKR-TV.

Who is she? Former Portsmouth, Virginia, Police Chief Tonya Chapman submitted her resignation on March 18, effective immediately. She was promoted to the position in February 2016 to lead a department in a city of 100,000 people, more than half of whom are black.

What does she say happened? Chapman submitted a four-page statement to media outlets, detailing the reasons she believed she was forced to resign. In fact, Chapman said, she was given a choice: Resign and get two months of severance pay, or be terminated.

"I can assure you I did not 'quit' on the citizens of Portsmouth," Chapman wrote. "My mother did not raise me to be a quitter. She raised me to be a strong woman. As such, my resignation was not tendered under my own volition. This was a forced resignation and our City Manager was the conduit."

Chapman claims the city manager told her she had lost the confidence of the department, but Chapman said officers she spoke to said they were never asked about the issue.

Why would she be forced out? Chapman said that when she took over, she noticed racial tensions as well as "bias and acts of systemic racism, discriminatory practices and abuse of authority." So, she attempted to change the culture in the department, but was met with some resistance.

"Some quite frankly did not like taking direction from an African-American female," Chapman wrote.

Chapman also accused the Fraternal Order of Police of working for years to gain support for a "no confidence" vote against her, and that they tried to do the same thing to a previous black chief of the department. The FOP denies these accusations.

Chapman pointed to a decrease in crime and an increase in diversity at the department as evidence that she was unjustly forced out of the department.

What now? Chapman declined to provide more detail about examples of racism within the department in her statement, saying she would be willing to divulge more to a government entity. She is requesting that she get a positive recommendation letter from the department, and six months of severance pay instead of just two.

City officials are not commenting on Chapman's resignation, saying they do not speak publicly about personnel issues, according to NBC News and WKTR.

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