Portland Police Bureau Chief Jami Resch on Monday announced she was stepping down from her position amid protests against police brutality, marking the end of her tenure as the bureau’s chief after six months.
Chuck Lovell, acting captain of the bureau’s Community Services Division, was named chief. Lovell, 46, is the bureau’s fourth African American police chief, the Oregonian reported. His appointment comes as protests against police brutality and racial discrimination have swept across the country after the death of George Floyd.
Resch, who is white, said she asked Lovell to take her place as chief and called him "the exact right person at the exact right moment." The Oregonian reported Lovell was hired by the Portland Police Bureau in 2002.
“She felt like now was the right time for her to step back and for me to step forward," Lovell said at a news conference. "It was a shock for me, I’ll be honest. But when your boss comes to you and she says, ‘The community needs you. The police bureau needs you.’ To me, I felt like it’s not the time to shrink and back down."
He added: "Leadership’s necessary right now. There’s a lot of hurt people. There’s a lot of healing that we need to start moving towards. I felt like if I in some small way can be the start of the community starting to feel some of that healing, it was my duty to do that.”
Portland’s handling of protesters recently came under scrutiny. Violence – from both police and protesters – has been an issue at protests nationwide. Police in Oregon arrested dozens of protesters amid reports of protesters throwing projects and police using tear gas and rubber bullets.
City Mayor Ted Wheeler said he’s instructed police to stop using CS gas except for crowd control for when “there is a serious and immediate threat to life safety.” Before that, Wheeler also told police to stop using LRAD (long-range acoustic device) to disperse crowds.
Still, the ACLU of Oregon on Sunday released a statement calling the Portland Police Bureau’s response to protesters “excessively violent and dangerous.”
“The role of police is to facilitate, not disperse, peaceful protest,” the organization wrote in a statement. “But in Portland for the last several years, the police consistently approach people gathered to protest against the police and white supremacy with intimidation and excessive force.”
Lovell didn’t go into specifics when asked if anything was going to change in how the bureau handles protests under his command.
“I think in very general terms, change is coming,” he said. “This is kind of a real precipice for law enforcement all over the country, in this city. We’re going to really look hard at what changes need to be made, what changes make sense. Change for the sake of change doesn’t always have the best outcomes for people.”
Resch was named chief on Dec. 31 after she was deputy chief for eight months, according to her biography on the police bureau’s website. She’s been with the bureau since 1999.
“I am asking the members of the Portland Police Bureau, please trust me,” she said Monday. “This is the right thing to do. And I’m asking the community to please trust that this comes from my heart.”
Lovell said there have been times when he’s met with the Portland community and walked away feeling like police and civilians didn’t hear each other. He said that was especially true in meetings he’s had with black residents of Portland.
“I always felt like we left there missing each other,” he said. “The community left feeling unheard and we left wondering why, ‘Hm, I wonder why they weren’t able to see things our way.’
“I think one of the most important things we can do as an organization is to find a way to convey to the community our heart. Let them know that we are here to serve you. We took an oath to serve and protect you. We love you. We fall down sometimes. We need to learn how to get better together. We need to stand by each other in that journey.”
Resch added she’s not leaving the bureau and will have a new role that’ll be announced later.
“When I was talking to him and explaining to him why I was making this decision and why I felt he was the right person for this decision, he made a very important statement,” Resch said. “He said, ‘I’ve never wanted to be in the role of a leader.’
“I said, ‘That’s exactly why you are the right the right person. You never wanted it. You were meant for it.’”