Charlie Hales made reforming the Portland Police Bureau one of his top priorities when he ran for mayor. He repeatedly said officer must improve their relationship with minority communities and reduce its use of excessive force, especially during confrontations with the mentally ill.
Now, less than two years into his first term, Hales says he is confident the bureau is moving in the right direction as he names a new chief.
Hales gave Chief Mike Reese credit for many of the improvements at the press conference held last Tuesday to announce Reese will retire in January. The mayor also said he expects the next chief, Assistant Chief Larry O’Dea, to continue the reforms.
“I am so excited about the direction we’re moving,” said Hales. “You can see it in the command staff and in the rank-and-file. It’s about relationships with the community. It’s not about the number of arrests; it’s about working on the things that are important to the community.”
For Hales, the switch is a chance to increase his push towards community policing. O’Dea, a 28-year bureau veteran, is recognized for his belief in walking beats and other outreach efforts.
But Hales credited with Reese with many positive accomplishments, including:
• A settlement of the U.S. Department of Justice civil rights investigation into the bureau’s use of excessive force against the mentally ill. It requires new training procedures and disciplinary guidelines, which Reese is implementing.
• A 32 percent reduction in use of force complaints filed by citizens against officers.
• A 40 percent increase in the bureau’s hiring of female and minority officers.
• Last month’s opening of the first training facility to better prepare officers to respond to a wide range of potential situations.
Hale’s also said that daily police reports he reads show that officers are doing a better jobs de-escalating confrontational situations, including those involving suicidal mentally ill people.
And Hales dismissed suggestions that he had a strained relationship with Reese because of such widely reported incidents as the controversial settlement with Mark Kruger, the police sergeant who admitted building a shrine honoring Nazis in a public park on his own time years ago. Hales called the controversy a “circus sideshow” and said he frequently has disagreements with bureau administrators, but that they move on.
“We had a good relationship throughout,” Hales said.
Reese will continue working on several reforms during the next three months. They include preparing the bureau to work with the Compliance Officer and Community Liaison that will soon be hired as part of the federal Department of Justice settlement. Reese will also continue overseeing a staffing level study approved by the City Council that many result in personnel changes in the draft 2015-16 budget that will be submitted to Hales in January, when O’Dea becomes chief.
Hales picked O’Dea without consulting with council or community members, saying he is the obvious choice to lead the bureau. For his part, O’Dea said he will continue working on Hale’s priorities, including implementing the federal settlement on time, improving community relations, increasing diversity within the bureau, and ensuring the bureau spends its budget efficiently.
Hales, Reese and O’Dae have three months to coordinate the transition, which is longer than any change since June 1993, when then-Chief Tom Potter retired and was replaced by Deputy Chief Charles Moose.
Every other switch since 1981 has been more abrupt and clouded with controversy, however.
Shortly after being elected mayor, Neil Goldschmidt appointed Bruce Baker as chief in January 1974. Baker, the former chief from Berkley, Calif., was not popular among rank-and-file officers, however. Goldschmidt assigned the bureau to then-Commissioner Charles Jordan, who kept Baker until he announced his retirement for health reasons in 1981.
By then Goldschmidt has been replaced as mayor by Frank Ivancie, a former commissioner. When Jordan announce he would conduct a national search for baker’s replacement, Ivancie took the bureau from Jordan and appointed his own chief, Ron Still, a captain with the bureau.
Still remained chief until 1985, when Ivancie was replaced by Bud Clark. After Still resigned, Clark appointed Portland police Capt. Penny Harrington as the first female chief in city history. But Clark dismissed her in June 1986 after her husband, Officer Gary Harrington, was accused of compromising a drug investigation.
Clark appointed Jim Davis to replace Harrington, but fired him in April 1987 during a meeting at the Fat City cafe in Multnomah Village after squabbling about the bureau’s budget. Davis’ replacement, retired Portland police Commander Richard Walker, lasted until November 1980, when he left after being accused of slapping a female subordinate during an argument.
Clark appointed North Precinct captain Potter to replaced Walker. Potter served until June 1993, when he retired. He was replaced by Moose, who served until August 1999, when he abruptly resigned to become police chief in Montgomery County, Md.
Moose was replaced by former Los Angeles Police Chief Mark Kroeker, who resigned under pressure in August 2003 after numerous confrontations with community members.
Then-Mayor Vera Katz appointed former Northeast Precinct Commander Derrick Foxworth to replace Moose. He lasted until June 2006, when Potter, who had been elected mayor, removed him over accusations of an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate and misuse of his official email account.
Potter replaced Foxworth with Central Precinct Commander Rosie Sizer. She was chief when the next mayor, former Commissioner Sam Adams, transferred the bureau to Commissioner Dan Saltzman. But Adams took the bureau back from Saltzman and dismissed Sizer in May 2010 after she held a press conference and criticized Adams’ proposed budget for the bureau.
Adams appointed Reese to replace Sizer. Reese survived the switch to Mayor Hales, but began talking to Hales about wanting to retire during the summer of 2014.
“In the past, changing chiefs has been like, off with their heads, out the door, who’s next,” said Hales. “This is a transition from strength to strength, from integrity to integrity.”