Portland mayor announces shakeup in top command of Police Bureau

Portland Mayor Charlie Hales

Portland Mayor Charlie Hales on Monday announced the anticipated shakeup in the top command staff of the Police Bureau, replacing retiring Chief Larry O’Dea as he faces criminal investigation for an off-duty shooting.

Capt. Michael Marshman will now become chief, Hales said.

Acting Chief Donna Henderson and three assistant chiefs will be transferred and replaced by Marshman’s own picks. Henderson and the others face administrative investigations into why they didn’t call for an internal inquiry when O’Dea told them about the shooting.

“Recently, the uncertainty surrounding leadership has raised myriad questions that have underscored the need to clear a path forward in order to bring stability to the organization and the community,” Hales wrote in a letter to Police Bureau members.

Hales described O’Dea as a chief who was “steadfastly committed” to the bureau’s progress and strove to bring about change to its policies and culture.

“In service of that commitment, Chief O’Dea has made the decision to step down so that the Bureau may continue moving ahead in its work with purpose and clarity,” the mayor wrote.

Hales said Marshman’s appointment to lead the bureau “brings new opportunity” and that Marshman’s “incisive leadership” is what the bureau needs “to re-establish its legitimacy internally and rebuild the community’s trust.”

Marshman won endorsement from the police union and Mayor-elect Ted Wheeler, who said he supports the new chief but still plans a national search when he takes office next year.

“We are at a critical crossroad. Although we’re still angry and in disbelief by the deep wounds inflicted on our organization by the outgoing chief, we are optimistic that we can work collaboratively with Chief Marshman to rebuild this Police Bureau,” Portland Police Association President Daryl Turner said in a statement. “It will take hard work; our rank-and-file members—and now Chief Marshman—are up to the task.”

Marshman has selected North Precinct Cmdr. Chris Uehara to serve as one of his assistant chiefs, The Oregonian/OregonLive has learned.

The announcement came after O’Dea’s lawyer on Sunday confirmed O’Dea’s decision to retire.

O’Dea departs amid an ongoing criminal investigation into his April 21 shooting of a friend while camping and shooting at ground squirrels in eastern Oregon’s Harney County.

Marshman has served as the Police Bureau’s liaison to the U.S. Department of Justice, assigned to ensure the bureau is adopting the reforms required under a settlement reached with federal officials stemming from a 2012 investigation that found police used excessive force against people with mental illness.

“As Chief, he will infuse the Bureau with his thoughtful and incisive leadership, continuing to build a force centered on community policing,” Hales wrote to bureau members.

The mayor decided that none of the four assistant chiefs who served under O’Dea should lead the bureau at this time. Henderson served as assistant chief of investigations until she was named acting chief when O’Dea was put on paid adminstrative leave May 24.

O’Dea initially told a Harney County sheriff’s deputy who responded to the 911 call that his friend appeared to have shot himself while trying to place his pistol back in his shoulder holster. But some time later, O’Dea called and apologized to his friend for shooting him with his .22-caliber rifle. The friend, Robert Dempsey, was shot in the lower left back, airlifted to a trauma hospital in Boise, Idaho, where he was treated and released.

O’Dea and the mayor kept the shooting out of the public eye for a month until reporters questioned the Police Bureau about it on May 20. Then O’Dea acknowledged he had a “negligent discharge” and shot his friend with his rifle.

However, O’Dea never told the Harney County Sheriff’s Office that he was responsible for the shooting, the sheriff said.

Once the sheriff’s office learned from the victim what had occurred and that O’Dea was chief of the Portland Police Bureau, the Harney County sheriff asked state police to assist. The state police, along with the Oregon Department of Justice, are expected to complete their criminal investigation soon.

O’Dea, 54, has 29 and a ½ years on the bureau. O’Dea made $192,504 a year in the top job. His annual pension would be about 82 percent of that, or about $160,000, depending on the percentage he chooses for survivor benefits.

His attorney, Derek Ashton, said O’Dea is confident he won’t face criminal charges, and that the state investigation will show that O’Dea wasn’t aware he had shot his friend at first and wasn’t under the influence of alcohol at the time.

The Harney County deputy who responded to the 911 call described O’Dea’s breath as smelling of alcohol, his eyes watery and bloodshot. He described O’Dea as shaking and nervous, and quickly downing bottles of water while he was being interviewed, the deputy’s report said.

Where the former assistant chiefs will be assigned is still in flux as the bureau struggles to deal with a staffing shortage and fill 65 vacancies.

The assistant chiefs, as well as acting chief Henderson, were unaware of the mayor’s planned shakeup in the chief’s office when contacted by an Oregonian/OregonLive reporter on Sunday afternoon.

Hales, who was returning from a trip to Indianapolis for a U.S. Conference of Mayors session during the weekend, called each assistant chief and Henderson late Sunday afternoon.

Here’s the mayor’s statement to the Portland Police Bureau:

Dear Bureau members,

As an organization, you all have undergone tremendous change. The DOJ Settlement Agreement triggered a sweeping reform effort that has placed each of you under increased scrutiny. You have served the Portland community under the weight of a staffing shortage that has created inconsistency in your lives and the lives of your families. Recently, the uncertainty surrounding leadership has raised myriad questions that have underscored the need to clear a path forward in order to bring stability to the organization and the community.With that understanding, Chief Lawrence P. O’Dea III is retiring after 30 years of service to the Bureau. Chief O’Dea has been steadfastly committed to the progress of the Bureau, striving to bring about required and needed change to the Bureau’s policies and culture. In service of that commitment, Chief O’Dea has made the decision to step down so that the Bureau may continue moving ahead in its work with purpose and clarity.

This new chapter of change also brings opportunity. Today, I am also announcing the promotion of Captain Michael Marshman to Chief of Police. Capt. Marshman brings over 25 years of experience to this new role, and has been instrumental in working with the City and the DOJ to implement reform efforts. As Chief, he will infuse the Bureau with his thoughtful and incisive leadership, continuing to build a force centered on community policing. I am thrilled to have within the Bureau an impressive leader who is prepared to step into this role at such a critical time as we set the bar even higher for public safety in our beloved city.

Capt. Marshman’s vision is what the Bureau needs to reestablish its legitimacy internally and rebuild the community’s trust. Under his leadership, I am confident that the Bureau will achieve those goals. I ask you to give him your full support.

Thanks for all you do,Charlie HalesMayor, City of Portland

Here’s the statement from the Portland Police Association:

A dark cloud has been lifted from over the Portland Police Bureau with the much needed departure of Larry O’Dea and arrival of Mike Marshman as Interim Chief of Police. The rank and file who patrol our streets, investigate crimes, and build relationships in the community can breathe a sigh of relief. For the past few weeks, we have watched as the Bureau suffered under Larry O’Dea’s lack of leadership and ownership of his actions. During a time where staffing has dramatically decreased to an all-time low and morale is as bad as it gets, we needed a police chief to lead us with strength and integrity. Larry O’Dea was not that person.

We are optimistic that Chief Marshman can breathe new life into our Police Bureau. Mayor Hales made a tough decision. It was the right one. Taking the step of appointing a new interim chief was absolutely necessary. But it’s only a first step. We still have a lot of work to do.

With change comes opportunity, and we must act fast to address the many grave concerns we have regarding the future of this organization. We must find a way to retain our current cadre of officers who have held this organization together during these tumultuous times. We must find a way to recruit the best and brightest officers who are qualified to perform the type of policing that Portlanders deserve and expect. We must find a way to serve our city with our dwindling resources. We must take this opportunity to ensure policy makers in our organization, including the captain of our Professional Standards Division, fairly and equitably abide by the cornerstones of integrity, transparency, and accountability.             

Chief Marshman has the opportunity to tap into the wealth of knowledge held by the rank and file members of this organization to find out what is needed to move the Police Bureau in the right direction. He also has the opportunity to make the next few months bearable in the face of more retirements, more resignations, and the lack of eligible candidates applying for jobs with the Police Bureau. And he has the opportunity to advocate in City Hall for a new collective bargaining agreement, which is essential to the survival of this organization.

We are at a critical crossroad. Although we’re still angry and in disbelief by the deep wounds inflicted on our organization by the outgoing chief, we are optimistic that we can work collaboratively with Chief Marshman to rebuild this Police Bureau. It will take hard work; our rank-and-file members—and now Chief Marshman—are up to the task.

Daryl Turner, President
Portland Police Association

— Maxine Bernstein

mbernstein@oregonian.com
503-221-8212
@maxoregonian

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