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Captain to replace Steve Bartol, who oversaw period in department marked by patrol cars hitting locals

Milwaukie has selected current Capt. Luke Strait to serve as the city's next police chief.

Luke StraitCity officials said that Strait was selected following a competitive recruitment process to replace Steve Bartol, who is set to retire on April 15.

Strait has worked for the Milwaukie Police Department for the past 23 years, serving as a patrol officer, a general assignment detective, a drug/gang detective, patrol sergeant and operations captain. In addition to his duties for the city, he has worked on the Clackamas County SWAT team for the past seven years.

"I'm extremely honored to accept this position and for the opportunity to serve the Milwaukie community in a new capacity," Strait said. "I'm proud to lead such a professional, service-oriented team, and for the part I can play to keep safety and livability as some of our highest priorities."

Milwaukie police not issuing press releases became a hot-button issue in 2017 when a FedEx driver fatally injured an 83-year-old in the crosswalk as she attempted to reach a bus in the Milwaukie Transit Center. Police never issued a press release after the FedEx driver paid $260 in fines for failing to yield the right-of-way. Police declined to press criminal charges and the family plans to sue FedEx for civil damages.

As police chief, Strait intends to focus on cultivating partnerships and building stronger relationships between the MPD and the community. He also plans to re-evaluate how the MPD's internal processes compare to national best practices.

"This year is an opportune time to take a closer look at the agency to see if we should re-evaluate our goals and objectives," Strait said. "With the ever-changing landscape of law enforcement and evolving police culture, it's critical that we take a moment to reflect on how we're doing things and make the necessary adjustments."

Over the next few months, Strait will meet with each member of his department, as well as neighborhood representatives, key community members and city staff to determine how the MPD is performing overall.

Bartol said that Strait would be an ideal successor and expressed his confidence that the department would "accomplish great things" under new leadership.

"Stepping away from this position and moving into the next chapter of life is bittersweet, but it's encouraging to know someone as capable as Luke is taking my place," Bartol said. "He's an ideal fit for the department, and I'm confident they'll accomplish great things."

After the outcry over Milwaukie's handling of Norma Gabriel's death, Bartol promised to send out press releases for all future cases involving vehicle drivers and bikes/pedestrians. In the ensuing media coverage it was revealed that the city had paid out a $400,000 settlement for a 2013 case in which Milwaukie Sgt. Scott Guy wasn't cited after he hit Gillian Hibbs, 70, shattering her leg bones as she tried to bike across a marked crosswalk on the Springwater Corridor.

In November 2018, another Milwaukie police patrol car, this time driven by Officer Mark Inman, crashed into a pedestrian in a crosswalk. Earlier in 2018, the city's insurance carrier paid $50,000 to the attorney for a man who was hurt in a crash with a patrol car driven by Milwaukie Police Officer Kathryn Meier in 2016.

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