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Todd Wyatt is the new captain at Traffic Division

Posted by on July 14th, 2010 at 8:23 am

Officer Todd Wyatt, Portland Police Bureau-1

Captain Todd Wyatt.
(Photo © J. Maus)

Todd Wyatt is the new captain of the Portland Police Bureau’s Traffic Division. Wyatt, 41, takes over the position from Eric Hendricks who held the position for just 13 months before being reassigned to a job in the Chief’s office.

Wyatt comes to Traffic from his previous post as Captain of the PPB’s Records Division. He held several administrative positions after serving as a beat cop in various precincts throughout the city for nearly two decades.

Wyatt lives with his family in Southwest Portland. He attended last night’s City of Portland Bicycle Advisory Committee, a practice his predecessors have made a priority. During a brief chat at that meeting, I learned that he’s no stranger to area bikeways. He said his family of four has six bikes and they take regular rides on the Waterfront and the Springwater Trail. Wyatt says he “dabbles” in biking (“When I ride with my friends who ride all the time I can barely keep up”) and also does a lot of kayaking on the Willamette.

Officer Wyatt also has quite a past in the Bureau. Back in 2005 he was the subject of a cover story in the Willamette Week. As an up-and-coming cop, Wyatt seems to have had a reputation for being tough — and sometimes a bit too tough — when working the streets of Northeast Portland.

The Willamette Week story was titled, Good Cop, Bad Cop: The city wants to rein in officers like Lt. Todd Wyatt. Here’s an excerpt:

“Wyatt is exactly the kind of guy “you want coming to your house if you’re in trouble, because he will take care of business,” says his former supervisor, ex-Capt. C.W. Jensen. Force, he adds, is “part of the game. Criminals use excessive force all the time.”

While lauded by his peers, Wyatt’s style got him a lot of attention of a different kind:

“Wyatt committed “misconduct both inside the courtroom and outside the courtroom,” says Judge Wilson. “I have never seen a police officer behave with such arrogance and disrespect.”

Wyatt himself is quick to volunteer that he has been called a liar, a brute and a racist. And according to city records obtained under Oregon Public Records Law, Wyatt has generated more threats of lawsuits against the Portland Police Bureau than any other cop.”

After moving out of Northeast Precinct, Wyatt worked in the Southeast and Central precincts. At Central Precinct he worked crowd control at large parades and Critical Mass and handled things like traffic control for visiting dignitaries.

Lieutenant Bryan Parman, who has been very engaged on a variety of bike-related issues, joined Wyatt at the meeting last night. Parman says it’s likely he’ll also be leaving the Traffic Division in the coming months. He has been the Lieutenant since February 2008. Parman is expected to stay at Traffic for at least a month or so to help Captain Wyatt get a lay of the land.

Welcome to the Traffic Division Captain Wyatt.

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  • jeff July 14, 2010 at 8:48 am

    “Wyatt has generated more threats of lawsuits against the Portland Police Bureau than any other cop”

    And now he’s in charge of the Traffic Division? How does someone who gets such negative attention get promoted like that?

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  • q'Tzal July 14, 2010 at 11:25 am

    Those that can … do.
    Those that can’t … teach
    Those that can’t teach … lead

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  • q`Tzal July 14, 2010 at 11:37 am

    #2 would be the illegitimate offspring of the Dilber Principle (“leadership is nature’s way of removing morons from the productive flow.”) and that old school adage:
    Those that can … do.
    Those that can’t … teach
    Those that can’t teach … teach gym
    Those that can’t teach gym … are guidance councilors.

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  • hambone July 14, 2010 at 11:59 am

    just the kind of upstanding guy we’re looking for…

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  • BURR July 14, 2010 at 12:15 pm

    Here we go again….

    The revolving door at the Traffic Division has become quite annoying.

    Maybe they should rotate the cyclist-hating motorcycle cops out of the Traffic Division more freqently, too.

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  • Velophile in Exile July 14, 2010 at 1:35 pm

    Further proof that there is no accountability at the PPB. Abuse your authority, get promoted!

    And they wonder why Portlanders with a conscience are willing to go into the streets to protest these people?

    If it weren’t so sad it would be funny.

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  • david....no! the other one July 14, 2010 at 3:34 pm

    Seems Officer Wyatt’s reputation precedes him. Could we just say, show us the officer you wish to be known as in this new position, and then we’ll judge for ourselves.

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  • Red Five July 14, 2010 at 8:24 pm

    Portland is un-governable.

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  • Todd Boulanger July 14, 2010 at 8:52 pm

    Lets wait and see what he can do…

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  • matt picio July 15, 2010 at 11:08 am

    It’s good to be aware of a person’s history when looking at positions of authority, especially one as visible as this. But I think we should hold off on condemning the man until we see how he performs in the job.

    It’s really easy to view people by their past, and form judgements – but people aren’t static, they can and do change. As the financial guys say, “past performance is no guarantee of future results”. Captain Wyatt is competent, or he wouldn’t have made it this far – he generated more THREATS of lawsuits than anyone else, not actual lawsuits. (which calls to mind a different point – how does WW KNOW? This stuff isn’t exactly tracked) Threats of lawsuits are also indicators of a good officer. When the police do their jobs well, they make enemies.

    PPB has made great strides the last few years, and officers like Chief Reese, Captain Hendricks, Lieutenant Parman, Sergeant Erin Smith, Officer Pickett and countless others have really made efforts to engage with the community and not only improve the bureau’s reputation, but also its performance. Are they perfect? No. Do you know any organization with over 500 employees that is? These are human beings, we can show them some respect as such. Call out misbehavior, absolutely. Call it out early, often, and with no tolerance for bigotry, profiling, or brutality. But also credit them when they do good, and that they’re even out there at all. These men and women have thankless jobs that put them in harm’s way, and while we should never tolerate abuse of the position we collectively put them in, we should also be thanking and acknowledging the job they do so the stresses of that job are less likely to drive them into the abuses that sometimes occur.

    Good luck, Captain Wyatt, and thank you Captain Hendricks and Lieutenant Parman for all of your hard work at Traffic Division!

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  • Dave Thomson July 15, 2010 at 11:21 am

    +1000 Matt #10

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  • Marcus Griffith July 15, 2010 at 12:33 pm

    Police officers have a difficult job that they do well everyday. Of course mistakes get made and ‘problem’ officers exist. But
    “threats” of a lawsuit does not necessarily mean an officer is out of line.

    I second Matt and Todd’s comments.

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  • matt picio July 15, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    Todd was a lot more concise. 🙂

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  • jeff July 15, 2010 at 1:45 pm

    “past performance is no guarantee of future results”

    No, but it is often a telling metric.

    But I’ll agree with the last few replies, let’s see what the next few months bring. I hope I’m surprised.

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  • wsbob July 15, 2010 at 6:00 pm

    The Willamette Week story is 7 years old, but was a good read. Seems as though Wyatt is a hot tempered person that got lucky, and somehow managed to keep his temper short of having him commit an offense he couldn’t recover from.

    Other officers have, and didn’t, such as the cop that shot Kendra Jackson. As I recall, his actions were determined ‘justified’, but psychological pressure associated with the incident and subsequent controversy had him quitting soon after the inquiry, to go into another field.

    Noticed in the WW story that Wyatt was one of two cops that got sued for having “…set up a line of cops to direct protesters …”. Long story short, parents and their babies got pepper sprayed. No mention of Whether Wyatt personally did that spraying.

    Maybe Wyatt has continued to mellow out, as 7 years ago in the WW story, he says he had:

    “…But, says Wyatt, he’s worked hard to change: “I’ve spent years asking God for more patience. I’ve found that the longer I’m at this job the smoother I am, even if people are being rude and abusive to me.” WW/budnick

    Words for the wise. Guy at least deserves a chance in the new job.

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  • wsbob July 15, 2010 at 6:31 pm

    Got a name wrong…should be Kendra James… .

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  • matt picio July 16, 2010 at 10:12 am

    jeff (#14) – It would be a telling metric if the source was more than a single 7-year old WW article.

    Ultimately, his performance in the job will speak louder than his alleged history. Just saying that if you look from the start with an eye to find fault, you’ll find it, whether it’s actually there or not.

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  • wsbob July 16, 2010 at 10:52 am

    Actually matt, not that it’s of any great consequence, but I made another mistake in comment #15; WW story is actually 5 years old, dated: February 23rd, 2005.

    According to that story, Wyatt’s been a Portland cop for 19 years, and before that, a cop out in St Helens. That’s getting to be quite a long time. If he did, as he says, set out some years back to develop a better sense of self control in dealing with people on the job, maybe that effort’s been successful.

    Time, and being in the higher profile position of Traffic Commission Captain, may help to better reveal to the public how true or not that is.

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  • Red Five July 16, 2010 at 5:52 pm

    In Little Beirut, he better get used to lots of rudeness.

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  • matt picio July 19, 2010 at 8:16 am

    wsbob, thanks for the correction. As you point out, it’s a high profile position, and that encourages one to behave in a fashion that doesn’t aggravate the public.

    I look forward to seeing what happens, and hope that the bureau continues to enhance their relations with the citizenry. The folks at the top set the tone for interaction with the public, and it trickles down all the way to the raw recruits – changing the culture of an entire organization takes 10-25 years. Reese, Hendricks, Parman – all have done a LOT in the past few years to build trust, rapport, and a relationship with the public at-large. I have hope that these trends will continue in the future.

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  • Velophile in Exile July 19, 2010 at 9:11 am

    Matt, your hope that Wyatt will stop being a sociopath is admirable, but it ignores the fact that the PPB has a long history of excusing and rewarding criminally violent behavior by its officers. Indeed, that’s why Wyatt is the subject of this conversation.

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  • CharonPDX August 23, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    Update! He’s been reassigned because of a road rage incident in Idaho. Apparently he brandished his pistol at another driver.

    So, apparently 13 months is the going rate for heads of the traffic division…

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