Because of several prominent Portland Police Bureau (PPB) supervisors recently retiring, Kelli Sheffer – who'd been the commander of East Precinct for several months – has been given command of Central Precinct downtown. Central Precinct serves Inner Southeast from Chavez Boulevard (formerly S.E. 39th) westward; East Precinct takes over from that street all the way east to Gresham.
After having headed the Bureau's Training Division, and then Tactical Operations, the new supervisor at East Precinct is Commander Bryan Parman.
About a month after Parman took charge, he toured East Portland on January 30 with THE BEE, and shared his thoughts during our ride-along.
Parman said he's a Southeast Portland native, and a proud graduate Franklin High School. "My son was the fourth-generation of our family to go through Glencoe Elementary; I feel very deep roots to the community."
The idea of becoming a police officer dated back to his teens, Parman said, when he became a PPB Explorer Scout (these are now called Cadets) – meeting at the Southeast Precinct building on Burnside Street.
"From my first ride-along, I was hooked on this as a job," he reflected. "What I keyed in on initially was the impact police officers have on people's lives; our ability to be a resource, and to be there for people, during what is sometimes the darkest day in their lives.
"And, I liked the idea of being out in the community – not working behind a desk! – and having a degree of autonomy in my daily work," Parman continued.
Working in the Bureau for years, and moving up the ranks, has helped develop his philosophy about the job, he said. "This profession, policing, is all about people. It's about making connections.
"My goal is the Commander of East Precinct is to strengthen the connections we have with community, and to build new pathways to other communities that don't currently have a connection with the Bureau.
"The time to establish a relationship is when things are going well – but could be better," Parman remarked. "There's never a bad time to build a relationship with someone, or some group."
Because the boundaries of East Precinct go from the city's eastern border with Gresham westward to S.E. Cesar E. Chavez Boulevard (formerly 39th), the districts therein provide differing challenges.
"Overall, responding to mental-health issues continues to be a challenge," he reflected. "Often, we're the first-responders to those in crisis; and nowadays we offer a more robust response, with our Enhanced Crisis Intervention Team officers.
"And, we continue to work with our partners to build out a better framework for response," Parman said. "At the same time, as police, we realize we can't 'arrest our way out' of needs like this; we're working to create more sustainable solutions."
Serving inner Southeast Portland
While property crimes, such as burglaries, car prowls, and vandalism, are considered to be lower-level offenses, Parman acknowledged that they do increase the "fear of crime" in neighborhoods where they occur.
Homelessness issues along the Springwater Corridor Trail are still of concern. "We continue to address those issues," Parman said.
"About vacant homes – the good news is we been able to work with our partners in the Portland Bureau of Development Services, and other city agencies, to come up with better solutions for abandoned homes that seem to be working."
Finally, Parman reassured those who are still upset about Southeast Precinct's current status.
"I understand, firsthand, about the situation," he said.
"Where I grew up, Southeast Precinct was 'my' precinct; Southeast Precinct is where I started.
"That precinct no longer serves areas it used to, it's true, and the thought I offer to folks is that the police officers who serve Inner Southeast Portland districts are still there. They simply change their clothes in a different office building," Parman said.
Even though many officers and members of the Bureau's command staff are choosing to retire when they're able to, Parman says he plans to stay on.
"I believe this job is a calling." Parman stated. "Regardless of what has transpired on the national stage, first and foremost this job is about service. [Circumstances have made] things challenging for police officers. I also believe that, here in Portland, the community still values us and still wants us to be engaged.
"As a profession, we continue to reinvent ourselves. The types of problems that we're asked to tackle today are not the types of problems we were asked to address 20 years ago.
"We, as a group of people who are committed to find resolutions to really complex problems, are exploring non-traditional methods to solve some of these problems.
"Quite frankly, that's what still engages me in this process – being a catalyst to get the right people to the table, to wrap our heads around some really complex problems," concluded Parman. "There are no easy solutions for many of these problems; but they keep me engaged in this profession."