Portland’s police chief resigned on Monday, just six months into her job, amid criticism of her department’s handling of protests in Oregon’s largest city. An African American lieutenant on the force replaced her.
The shakeup came as police have been sharply criticized for using what has been called inappropriate force against some protesters as huge demonstrations continue in Portland.
“To say this was unexpected would be an understatement,” new Police Chief Chuck Lovell said at a news conference. “I’m humbled. I’m going to listen. I’m going to care about the community, and I’m looking forward to this journey.”
He and community leaders of color credited Jami Resch, a white woman, for stepping down as George Floyd protests roiled the city.
Resch told the news conference that Lovell is “the exact right person at the exact right moment” to head the police department.
Resch had replaced Danielle Outlaw, who was Portland’s first African American female police chief and who became Philadelphia police commissioner in February.
Resch said she suggested the shakeup to Mayor Ted Wheeler, who said he supported Lovell to lead the department as it moves through needed reforms.
“We need Chief Lovell’s leadership,” Wheeler said at the news conference. “We must re-imagine reform and rebuild what public safety looks like.”
Lovell served as Outlaw’s executive assistant. Under Resch, he led a new Community Services Division that included the Behavioral Health Unit, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported. The unit’s mission, according to its web page, is to aid people in crisis resulting from mental illness and/or drug and alcohol addiction.
Resch said she will stay with the department in a different role.
Demonstrators held two peaceful George Floyd protests in Portland but a third one that lasted until the early hours of Monday resulted in at least 20 arrests, with some demonstrators throwing objects at police, who fired tear gas and sponge-tipped projectiles.
Full beverage containers, glass bottles, hard-boiled eggs and rocks were thrown or fired at officers using sling-shots, police said in a statement Monday. A medic who was working with the officers was hit in the stomach with a rock.
The protest that turned violent happened at the Justice Center in downtown Portland.
The ACLU of Oregon has called on Portland police to end the use of tear gas, impact weapons and flash bang devices.
“We join the protesters in calling for a new approach in our community, and demanding that we uphold the rights of people who have historically had their rights and humanity denied,” the rights group said Sunday.
Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, who is African American, slammed the recent police response to some protests.
“I’m incredibly troubled by the excessive force used nightly by PDX police since the protests began,” she said. “The videos and painful firsthand accounts of community members getting tear gassed and beaten by police for exercising their 1st Amendment rights should be concerning for us all.”
Lovell’s appointment does not require City Council approval, Wheeler’s spokeswoman Eileen Park said.
Police say they have encouraged peaceful protests, but smaller groups splinter from the demonstrations or come out later to engage in mayhem.
Protesters Monday evening walked onto Interstate 84 in Portland’s Lloyd District, which led to officials temporarily shutting it down in that area, news footage showed. Earlier, protesters cheered when a speaker at the demonstration talked about the police chief’s resignation. “Are we done yet,” he asked the crowd. “No,” the crowd shouted back.
Another crowd near the downtown jail after 9 p.m. was urged by police not to shake and climb a fence erected to keep protesters away. “We are not here to police a fence,” Portland police said on Twitter. “We are here to protect the people who work in the Justice Center and the adults in custody who are living there.”
On the ground, police were staying farther away from the fence than they had during other nights. The crowd had grown to hundreds by around 9:40 p.m., The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.