Larry O’Dea, Captain of the Portland Police Bureau’s Traffic Division, announced in an email yesterday that he has been promoted to Assistant Chief. O’Dea will begin his new assignment working with Chief Rosie Sizer effective next Thursday and current Lieutenant Bryan Parman will be the acting Captain until a replacement is named.
“When a replacement captain is selected, it will be someone that… will continue to support the city’s multi-modal transportation vision and recognizes our role in helping to achieve it.”
— outgoing Captain Larry O’Dea
O’Dea has been at the Traffic Division for less than a year. Back in January, he and Lieutenant Bryan Parman replaced former Captain Vince Jarmer and former Lieutenant Mark Kruger.
The Traffic Division is the most important part of the Bureau for bike-related issues. They write 80% of traffic tickets, they conduct targeted enforcement actions, investigate bike crashes, they escort bike parades, and generally have a lot of contact with the community.
O’Dea’s departure after such a short tenure, continues a troubling trend at the Traffic Division. Once a replacement is named, it will be the sixth leader of the division in just over three years. This rotating door brings with it differing leadership styles and enforcement philosophies which can make it difficult for the community, advocates, and traffic safety staff at PDOT to maintain momentum and build lasting relationships and programs.
Thankfully, showing the communication and leadership skills that made him such an effective captain, O’Dea addressed that concern in his statement (something I haven’t seen any other outgoing captain do):
I know in the past that there has been a problem during command changes at the Traffic Division with momentum lost in projects and differing philosophies emerging. I want to reassure you that this won’t happen with this change. We have made great progress in the last year and we are committed to continuing on in the positive and collaborative direction we have started.
Berg (middle), and Chief Rosie Sizer
at the Platinum award announcement.
(Photo � J. Maus)
Having someone like O’Dea as Assistant Chief is exciting for our city, but it’s bittersweet for those of us who worked with O’Dea.
At Traffic, he (and Lt. Parman) ushered in a new era of cooperation and collaboration. They calmed a storm of acrimony that existed between the Traffic Division and the community following three tumultuous months of outcry after our tragedies last October.
O’Dea and Parman were very well-liked in the community and they showed a commitment to improving traffic safety and a sincerity in forging productive relationships that I haven’t experienced since I’ve been covering the bureau.
Under O’Dea’s watch, the Traffic Division has made huge strides in our community. O’Dea spearheaded a bike law working group that has created a Community Policing Agreement and either he and/or Parman attend monthly PDOT Bicycle Advisory Committee meetings (even when there’s nothing about cops on the agenda). O’Dea also decided to bring back the free bike light program that was dropped by his predecessor. Also during O’Dea’s tenure, Officer Robert Pickett (a regular commenter and contributor on BikePortland.org) assumed the role of official liaison to the community on bike issues. Just a few weeks after O’Dea came to the Traffic Division, Chief Sizer instituted a new directive that lowered the injury threshold for crash investigations for vulnerable roadway users.
Those are just some examples of the important progress that has been made in the past year.
Now, our thoughts turn to O’Dea’s replacement. Hopefully, the leadership style pendulum doesn’t swing too far and leave us back at square one. Luckily, again, this concern is already on O’Dea’s radar. In his statement, he wrote that when a replacement captain is selected, it will be someone that he, the Chief, and Lieutenant Parman, “believe will continue to support the city’s multi-modal transportation vision and recognizes our role in helping to achieve it.”