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Former Portsmouth Police chief claims she was forced to resign

Tonya Chapman wrote she was forced out by one of her close colleagues: City Manager Lydia Pettis-Patton.

PORTSMOUTH, Va. — Former Portsmouth Police Chief Tonya Chapman released a statement detailing her decision to resign.

In a four-page document emailed out Monday morning addressed "to the citizens of Portsmouth," the first African-American woman to lead a city police department in Virginia highlighted some of her accomplishments, including a decrease in major crimes and community engagement initiatives.

Writing that "my mother did not raise me to be a quitter," Chapman said she was abruptly forced to resign from her position by a close friend and colleague, City Manager Lydia Pettis-Patton.

Chapman said when she took the position in 2016, she was advised about tension between the community and police department. Yet she was determined to change the culture and develop a highly ethical, high performing, and diverse police department.

She claimed her efforts to change the culture were "often met with continued resistance from some members of the Portsmouth Police Department." 

Those officers were "dealt with in accordance within the disciplinary policies" of the department. Still, she said she had "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."

According to Chapman, she was forced to resign when she was called into a meeting with the city manager, who began to read a "scripted document" that said in part that Chapman had "lost the confidence" of her department.

Chapman wrote that despite her attempts to get more answers, she was told the city manager couldn't say more. She only had the choice to sign the pre-written letter of resignation, or she would be terminated.

Chapman concluded her letter, "It is now time to move on in the next chapter of my professional career. It has been an honor to serve as your Chief of Police and I wish you much success."

Assistant Chief Angela Greene is currently named interim police chief.

The Portsmouth NAACP and NOBLE gave a press conference on Monday following Chapman's statement.

Both the City of Portsmouth and City Manager Pettis-Patton did not respond to requests for comment.

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