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Lesbian SFPD commander approved as new police chief for Lincoln, Nebraska

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Teresa Ewins, who was approved by the Lincoln City Council to be its new police chief, addressed the council July 19. Photo: Screengrab
Teresa Ewins, who was approved by the Lincoln City Council to be its new police chief, addressed the council July 19. Photo: Screengrab  

In a 7-0 vote, the Lincoln City Council approved the nomination of lesbian San Francisco Police Department Commander Teresa Ewins to become the newest police chief of Nebraska's capital city.

Ewins, who will be the first female and first out LGBTQ chief, will start in the position August 30.

Speaking at the council meeting July 19, Ewins — who as the Bay Area Reporter previously reported was nominated to the position by Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird on June 28 — thanked members of the Lincoln Police Department for being supportive.

"LPD has been nothing but gracious and I have to thank them for making me comfortable," Ewins said. "The transition will be seamless."

Ewins said that she is enjoying a respite from the cold summer in the city.

"I came here from San Francisco," Ewins said. "It's much colder there, with the fog, so I welcome the weather."

The SFPD has not responded to two B.A.R. requests to interview Ewins.

At the City Council meeting, Baird said that those responsible for choosing a new police chief discerned that their top priorities were "community policing," "diversity, equity, and inclusion" and "transparency and accountability," and that of the 30 applicants Ewins fit the bill the best.

"Your approval of her appointment will be the culmination of a robust public process that has engaged the community, the sworn officers and staff of the police department, and the stakeholders and partners who work with them on a regular basis," Baird told the council members.

Baird summarized Ewins' experience in her 26 years with the SFPD.

"Ewins oversaw five of 10 stations — in the downtown area — with approximately 900 sworn officers," Baird said. "I believe Ms. Ewins demonstrated a commitment to the broad themes identified in the search process as priorities for the next police chief, and she shares our priority of seeking constant improvement."

James Michael Bowers, the city council's chair, concurred.

"There was this overall theme of the right person at the right time for the right community," he said.

The city of Lincoln has 358 sworn officers and 147 civilian employees, according to its website.

Baird touted the support of former Lincoln, Nebraska police chiefs — who showed up to the meeting — for her decision to pick Ewins.

"I would like to ask all our former police chiefs to please stand so we can thank them for their service to our community," Baird said. "Each one is a link in the chain that has led to today."

After applause from the assembly, Baird went on to thank interim Chief Brian Jackson, whom she said "has held the fort together while we've moved forward in the search process."

Ewins, 55, was the first woman to head the Tenderloin police station, as the B.A.R. noted in a 2015 article when she was named its captain.

Ewins most recently has been the field operations bureau head for the Metro division, overseeing some 900 sworn officers at Central Station, Southern Station, Mission Station, Northern Station, Tenderloin Station, the Alcohol Licensing Unit, the Serial Inebriate Program, Special Events, Transfers/Payroll, SF Main Library security, Homeless Outreach, Police Law Enforcement Services (PLES) and the Entertainment Commission liaison.

(There are also Golden Gate and investigation divisions, which with the Metro division comprise SFPD's Field Operations Bureau.)

Before heading up Tenderloin station, Ewins had previously served in Southern, Mission, Bayview, Northern, and Tenderloin stations.

She'd also worked in the SFPD''s homeland security division; headed the SFPD's special investigations division, which includes hate crimes and other incidents; worked in the tactical unit; and oversaw the special victims unit.

In a statement to the B.A.R. July 20, Baird said that Ewins was the consensus choice.

"Lincoln's robust public process led to a broad base of support for Chief Ewins," Baird stated. "From a unanimous vote by our City Council to the backing of our police union and our interim chief of police, Ewins earned the confidence of our community and emerged as the consensus candidate thanks to her outstanding leadership and experience."

Bowers did not respond to requests for comment as of press time.

The SFPD did not respond to a B.A.R. request to receive a statement from SFPD Chief of Police William Scott, though he did give a statement in a news release when Ewins was nominated last month.

"As much as we will miss Teresa, we couldn't be happier for our colleague," Scott stated in the release. "I have every confidence that Lincoln's residents, visitors, and police department members will be extraordinarily well served by Chief Ewins' commitment to the principles of 21st century policing and her tireless dedication to those she is sworn to protect and serve."

Updated, 7/20/21: This article has been updated with a comment from Mayor Baird.

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