Hayward police chief apologizes for saying city council is ignorant

Hayward Police Chief Toney Chaplin.

Hayward Police Chief Toney Chaplin apologized last week for saying Hayward City Council members were ignorant of the department’s day-to-day activities. Chaplin, a former San Francisco interim police chief, who was tapped to lead the Hayward Police Department in July 2019, made the initial comment during a City Council budget and finance committee meeting on July 29.

“The danger associated with the path we’re currently on, is quite frankly, the city council members are ignorant of what their department is doing,” Chaplin said.

In response to Chaplin’s comment, Hayward Mayor Barbara Halliday nodded her head in approval.

Chaplin added that most members of the council have not visited the police department over the past year. “It’s four minutes from City Hall,” he added.

A week later, Chaplin prefaced his comments at a joint Hayward City Council and Hayward school board special meeting on Aug. 4  to issue an apology.

Referencing his 30 years at the San Francisco Police Department, Chaplin said, “If you asked anyone that I have ever engaged with there, they will tell you that I have a reputation for being direct. It can also mean I can be blunt.”

“The comments I made on July 29 may have come across as blunt or insensitive, and to each and every one of you, I offer an apology. I will seek better dialogue with those advocating for change going forward.”

Calls for reforming the Hayward Police Department, along with defunding a portion of its budget, predate Chaplin’s tenure. The city’s political and public discourse shifted dramatically following outrage over the shooting of Agustin Gonsalez by Hayward Police in November 2018.

Several council meetings were interrupted in 2019, including one, in which Halliday moved the proceeding behind closed doors. After the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis Police in late May, the drumbeat for police accountability in Hayward increased.

The Hayward Collective, a local advocacy group issued a seven-point list of demands to the city to extricate the police from handling residents with mental health issues and defunding the police department, among other requests.

The context for Chaplin’s comments on July 29 was partly about his concerns that public comments and emails opposing the Hayward Collective’s demands were being given short shrift by some councilmembers.

“I have not heard those discussed one time and that is a concern for me as a police chief in this city,” Chaplin told the budget and finance committee, which is made up of Councilmembers Aisha Wahab and Sara Lamnin, along with Mayor Halliday.

Wahab told Chaplin that she had received roughly one dozen emails from residents opposing the defunding of the Hayward police force. Wahab acknowledged others may have received additional emails in opposition of the plan. But she added, “We have had hundred upon hundreds of emails regarding defunding the police.”

In late June, the Hayward City Council voted to decrease the police department’s budget by $4.1 million, a roughly five percent cut to its overall budget. The reduction, however, stems mostly from a decision not to fill 12 vacant police officer positions during the next fiscal year.