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Chief Reese Retires in Wake of Federal Intervention at Portland Police Bureau

Tuesday, October 07, 2014


Police Chief Mike Reese announced Monday that he was retiring, marking the first time Portland’s top cop to step down peacefully since 1999.

Reese, who has been chief for four years, a relatively long time for a Portland chief, has overseen a bureau that is now under federal order to reform the way it uses legal and nonlethal force. Those new federal mandates have only just been agreed to and are yet to be fully implemented.

"I believe this is a natural time for a transition to a new chief who will oversee the next chapter in the Portland Police Bureau," Reese said Monday at the Portland Justice Center.

Flanked by his two daughters and wife, Mayor Charlie Hales and the chief’s successor Larry O’Dea, Reese said his last day would be January 2 and that he looked forward to spending more time with his family.

'Off with their heads'

Hales and O’Dea all went out of their way to note how “disruptive” the past transitions between police chiefs had been and emphasized that Reese’s retirement will provide the bureau for an opportunity for a smooth transition.

“It’s usually, ‘Off with his head and out the door,” Mayor Hales said of the way the last three chiefs were dismissed.

Hales said he planned preferred to give the postion to an existing police executive officer rather than conduct a national search as he was done with other position.

"We have a very deep bench at the police bureau," Hales said.

Reese became chief in 2010, following Mark Kroeker, Derrick Foxworth and Rosie Sizer who all left while mired in public controversy.

In 2003, Chief Mark Kroeker resigned in the aftermath year of criticism stemming from heavy-handed tactics, homophobic comments made in the past and the controversial shooting death of 21-year-old African American woman named Kendra James. Derrick Foxworth was demoted in 2006 amid accusations of sexual misconduct and retired two years later. Mayor Sam Adams fired Rosie Sizer in 2010, the city’s first woman police chief, after a stormy relationship that included police budget battles and a $1.6 million city payout in a wrongful death suit prompted by the in-custody death of a man with schizophrenia named James Chase.

Many sources close to police affairs remarked that Reese had been a relatively amiable and even handed administrator.

The Mayor said Reese approached him about retirement this July. Reese, at 57, has been eligible for retirement for two years, having over two decades of law-enforcement duty under his belt.

Reese, however, has overseen a bureau rocked by troubles surrounding the use of police force, especially when it comes to mentally ill suspects.

Incoming Chief Larry O'Dea on Monday.

Under Federal Order to Reform

Within hours of Reese taking his position in 2010, a string of police shootings of mentally ill suspects rocked the city and prompted a civil rights investigation by the feds.

Those shooting included Keaton Otis and Aaron Campbell and amplified criticism of police handling of the mentally ill that had begun after James Chasse’s death.

On August 29, police formalized an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice over reforms at the bureau.

Incoming Chief O’Dea said he supported the new federal mandates and said that reforms in place would probably be a model for other police operations and “the future of police departments around the country.”

O’Dea has been on the force since 1986. He now faces the responsibility of implementing further reforms at the bureau and overseeing new a move to install body cameras on officers.

Given the rocky tenure of past police chiefs, O’Dea was asked by GoLocalPDX how long he planned to stay in his position?

O’Dea said he was focused “less about time and more about getting stuff done.”


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