Out former SF cop who became chief in Nebraska quits

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Tuesday August 1, 2023
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Former Lincoln, Nebraska Police Chief Teresa Ewins. Photo: Courtesy City of Lincoln
Former Lincoln, Nebraska Police Chief Teresa Ewins. Photo: Courtesy City of Lincoln

A lesbian former San Francisco police commander who became the first female and first out LGBTQ chief of police in Lincoln, Nebraska has resigned.

Teresa Ewins became Lincoln's chief in 2021 after 26 years at the San Francisco Police Department, as the Bay Area Reporter noted at the time. For a time she'd been captain of the Tenderloin station, whose jurisdiction includes the city's longtime transgender neighborhood near City Hall.

One of four finalists for the position, she'd been nominated by Lincoln Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird and was endorsed by the Lincoln Journal Star newspaper and the Lincoln Police Union. Two years later Ewins tendered her resignation July 21, effective immediately.

The exact reason remains unknown — she couldn't be reached for comment for this article. Both the Lincoln mayor and police department's offices told the B.A.R. they could only share the contents of a news release.

Ewins stated she was honored to have served as chief.

"Over the past two years, we have made great strides, even amid challenging times for our nation and our community," she stated in the release. "And it is you — my colleagues, my officers ... my friends — who have done the heavy lifting. I will be stepping down as chief of this department and moving on. This was not an easy decision, but I have determined it is the best one."

She called Lincoln's department "one of the best."

"Your hard work and dedication to this community is evident, and felt, every day. I will always value each and every one of you. And I know that you determine the course of this department. Do your best and do what is right — no matter what you confront. I believe in you," she stated. "In addition to the law enforcement professionals with whom I have served, I very much want to thank the community — the people of Lincoln — for their support of this department and for my tenure as chief. It has been a pleasure to serve and be a part of this community. Thank you."

Baird thanked Ewins for her service.

"During her tenure, Chief Ewins and I worked to deliver the high level of public safety that we have here in Lincoln," Baird stated. "I thank her for her service to our community. Together we added officers, dispatchers, and support personnel positions to LPD's staff and negotiated a labor contract that made LPD officers the highest-paid law enforcement in the state. We also opened a new Northeast Team Station, secured additional equipment, and increased training for officers responding to mental health-related calls for service."

Baird appointed Michon Morrow, a veteran of Lincoln's police department since 1995, to serve as interim chief. Morrow called the department "an extension of my family."

"I care deeply about it and the community we serve. I am honored and humbled to be asked to serve in the acting role as Chief of Police," Morrow stated. "The Lincoln Police Department is a tremendous organization with very talented and dedicated staff who are proud to serve this City. They deserve my best. My best, while always a work in progress, is a product of many leaders and peers who supported and mentored me throughout my career. I am grateful to all of them and Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird for placing their trust in me. I'm excited and look forward to working in partnership with the Mayor's Office, our community partners, and our team at LPD."

The Journal-Star reported that several now-former officers had issues with the department.

Internally, two former police officers had filed lawsuits alleging discrimination and harassment before Ewins was hired and, after she became chief, five more officers came forward with similar allegations and two more filed lawsuits, the paper reported.

Just one of those officers is still employed by LPD, and Ewins fired four of them following internal affairs investigations that occurred after they'd come forward, according to the paper.

"As is outlined in our clients' lawsuits, Chief Ewins and the City of Lincoln failed LPD employees by ignoring numerous complaints of sexual misconduct and retaliating against those who raised awareness about this issue," said Kelly Brandon, the attorney who had represented the LPD officers who had sued the city, the Journal-Star reported. "Because of their failure to acknowledge and remedy this ongoing toxic culture, Chief Ewins and the City of Lincoln made LPD a more dangerous place for employees. We hope LPD's new leadership is willing to acknowledge the problem of sexual misconduct at LPD ... and work to improve the safety and well-being of all employees."

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