The Portland Police Bureau has announced another change atop the Traffic Division. Former Captain Eric Hendricks will now serve as the new Assistant Chief of Investigations in the Chief’s office. Hendricks was named Captain in April 2009, making him the sixth officer to lead the Traffic Division in the past five years.
Hendricks’ 13 month tenure is actually higher than the average for recent Traffic Division leaders. After Bill Sinnott retired in 2006, the the next four leaders — Marty Rowley, Mark Kruger, Vince Jarmer and Larry O’Dea — served nine, eight, six, and 11 month stints respectively.
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, escort bike (and other) parades, and generally have a lot of contact with the community.
In November 2008, when Hendrick’s predecessor Larry O’Dea left his post as Captain to work in the Chief’s office, I wrote:
“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.”
However, with such a calm and productive relationship between the community and the Traffic Division these days, these constant personnel changes will likely not raise as many concerns as they have in the past. It’s also worth noting that of all the Captains (formerly called Commanders) since 2005 (when I started covering this beat) Hendricks has been the most anonymous of them all.
Hendricks didn’t make much news here on BikePortland in part due to the relative calm I mention above but also because of a serious car crash that kept him out of work for several months.
Hendricks will move into an Assistant Chief position working alongside new Police Chief Mike Reese. According to PPB spokesperson Mary Wheat, a new Captain for the Traffic Division has not been named. We’ll keep you posted on who gets the job.
UPDATE, 4:25pm: I failed to mention two important parts of this story. First, Traffic Division Lieutenant Bryan Parman (2nd in command) has been a steadying and important influence since 2008. Regardless of who’s in charge at TD, Parman has been highly engaged with bike issues and attends the Bicycle Advisory Committee meeting every month (among other things). Also, Former Captain Larry O’Dea who moved on to be an Assistant Chief has been recently re-assigned as Assistant Chief of Operations. According to PPB bike liaison officer Robert Pickett, that means O’Dea — who has remained interested in bike issues even after moving on from the TD — is well-positioned to influence and stay connected to bike issues in the future.