Some major personnel changes have been made at the Portland Police Bureau’s Traffic Division.
Speaking from her cell phone a few minutes ago, Assistant Chief of Police Lynnae Berg confirmed that Captain Vince Jarmer and Lieutenant Mark Kruger will soon be leaving the Traffic Division (this division is the most important part of the Bureau for bikes because they write 80% of traffic tickets, they conduct crash investigations, and they work parades).
Berg says that Jarmer is transferring to become commander of the Transit Police Division. Lieutenant Larry O’Dea will be promoted to captain to take Jarmer’s place.
Berg says O’Dea is highly regarded “both internally and externally” and that he “has a strong history in community policing” during his previous tenure as a lieutenant in Central Precinct. Before this assignment, O’Dea served as Berg’s executive officer (her “right-hand man” is how one person put it). This means O’Dea can offer the Traffic Division (and in a sense, the bike community) a straight line of communication to the Chief’s office.
Also moving out of the Traffic Division is Lieutenant Mark Kruger. Berg confirmed that Kruger has been promoted to captain and will now head the Bureau’s Drug and Vice Division.
Kruger’s policing style (and not-so-nice past) have made him the focal point of frustration and dissatisfaction among many in the community. Most recently, his handling of two high-profile bike fatalities increased the calls for him to be disciplined or removed from the Traffic Division.
Despite all that, Kruger’s move to a new division is not being seen as a disciplinary action. It’s clear to many people I’ve talked to both inside and outside of the Police Bureau that, in spite of his past and sometimes rough communication skills, he is a very capable officer who is deserving of a promotion.
Did the intense community outcry around his faux pas in October have something to do with his move? It’s hard to say.
The changing of the guard atop the Traffic Division continues a frustrating trend. Bike advocates and insiders have long grumbled that it is much more difficult to establish a good working relationship with this division because the top position is constantly in flux. Lt. Larry O’Dea will become the fifth leader of the Traffic Division in the past three years.
I have heard good things about O’Dea and I hope to bring you an interview with him soon.