New chief at the helm
On June 11, Chuck Lovell was sworn in as Portland's latest police chief, after his predecessor, Jami Resch, voluntarily stepped down to make way for him.
Just three years ago, Lovell was promoted from sergeant to lieutenant, making the rapidity of his rise to top cop unprecedented in recent memory.
His promotion was hailed by many in the community. And despite his replacement of a well-liked chief, many officers expressed unqualified support for Lovell, praising his sincerity, thoughtfulness and commitment to public service.
"What you see with Chuck is all real," said one cop who spoke on condition of anonymity because officers are not authorized to comment. "He's one of these people who is respected and liked universally, inside and outside the bureau."
At an introductory press conference last week, Lovell said what propelled him into being a cop was his parents' focus on service, and his job as a youth delivering newspapers in New York. There, he developed relationships with everyone on his route — to the point where he'd be collecting checks and people would invite him in for dinner. He'd water customer's plants while they were on vacation, or go grab a snow shovel after his route to make sure elderly customers could get out of their houses.
"That I knew in my heart was the kind of relationship I wanted to have with people," he said "And that sense of community stuck with me throughout my life."
Here's what else he said, edited for brevity:
On disbanding the Gun Violence Reduction Team: Those officers will be reassigned somewhere within the Police Bureau. They'll remain with the Police Bureau. Those officers do great work, the calls that they go on will still need to be answered. And we'll have to figure out internally the best way to resource to manage those calls for service.
On protesters trying to bridge the fence surrounding the Justice Center, and the possibility of a Seattle-type occupation:
Our goal is to protect our buildings and protect the souls that are in the Multnomah County Detention Center. There are folks in that building who we have an obligation to protect. We've got officers who have been working around the clock for two weeks straight, who are accomplishing that mission for us. And it's an important life safety mission that we don't undertake lightly. We use the tools at our disposal to accomplish that mission. And yeah, the situation in Seattle is one that we definitely don't want to see here in Portland.
On his plans for command staff and managing a smaller bureau:
I'm very happy with the folks I have in place to support me. There are some things that I'm looking at to realign, and the equity office is one of them. I think that's some of the most important work we do in the Police Bureau. I'm looking at bringing that kind of up into the chief's office to report to me directly, most likely, in the very near future
We'll have to see how to best manage those resources to align with the service we've come to provide to the community. That's going to take a lot of listening, a lot of realigning, looking at where the needs are, what resources we have. And we're definitely committed to doing that work to hearing the community and at the end of the day, providing the city of Portland with great police service.
On defunding the police:
I don't think any police chief wants police defunded. The citizens of Portland, or cities and towns and counties throughout the country, need police services. There are things that happen that need to get responded to and investigated. Crime doesn't stop because of a pandemic or because of mass protests. At the end of the day, people need good police service. And I think that's what the real call is for, a police service that's just and meets the needs and expectations of the community. So I don't think defunding, per se, is the answer. We need to kind of right-fund, right-size, right-align, right-incentivize and get people the police service that they want, that makes sense for them, and it's in the best interest of the community.
On crowd control tactics:
I think it's important to recognize that there are thousands of peaceful —I don't even like to call them "protesters" or "demonstrators" — but change agents who show up ... they support a message of we want change and they do it in a peaceful manner. They go to locations throughout the city, and they exercise their First Amendment rights. And there's a small group that comes downtown and engages in activity that's somewhat problematic for us. But I think for me, I want to give my officers the tools to do the job. And the job we're asking them to do downtown is to protect the Justice Center. We really try to communicate to folks our intentions, the information they need to be safe when they're out there. And the ones who don't comply or are resistant to doing things, we give them warnings, we try to give them every opportunity to keep themselves safe. But I want to give my officers tools that keep them from being in a situation where they have potentially physical confrontations with people.
On the change he wants to see immediately:
I believe that community policing, which really started here in Portland, it's time for it to come back in a way where people in the communities know their police officer, wherever an officer has accountability to a community because they have to show up every day there and provide service, and look the community members and business owners in the eye and, together to solve … the problems in that community. So I'm really looking to realign our police services to communities, to neighborhoods, to districts, and put us in a position where we can partner with the community to address some of the neighborhood and livability issues. Unfortunately, that's not going to happen soon. It's going to take a lot of discussion, a lot of structural examination and things of that nature.
But I think that relationship piece — that trust that gets built when officers and community members are connected to each other —is kind of where we need to get back to.
On Portland public schools ending its arrangement with police for school resource officers.
One of the things I came away with from my time as a school resource officer was great relationships with youth, you get to be on their turf every day. You're in their hallways, you're in their cafeteria, you're at their football games, at their basketball games, and they see you every day. So they get a sense of who you are as a person, how you treat people, they watch you and get a sense of you. And I think … it was really, for me, an opportunity to make connection with youth.
You know, we're at a point today where that opportunity has gone away. But I think it's important for us as a Police Bureau to look for other opportunities to still connect with young people, to listen to their voices to show them to show them really our heart and our humanity.
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