Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Beloved Portland Police officer Robert Pickett moves on

Posted by on May 10th, 2011 at 6:49 pm

BTA Alice Awards-40

Pickett accepting his Alice
Award in 2009.
(Photos © J. Maus)

Robert Pickett, a Portland police officer who has endeared himself to many in our community, has accepted a position with the U.S. State Department. Pickett, who announced the news minutes ago at the City of Portland Bicycle Advisory Committee meeting, will report for training for his new position in Washington D.C. on May 23rd.

Pickett, 38, will become a Foreign Service Officer and will soon be stationed at a yet-to-be-named U.S. embassy. Pickett will train to become a “Consular Officer,” whom the State Department website says are, “Strategic thinkers and crisis managers who protect U.S. citizens and interests abroad.”

Car Free Days Day 1

Pickett at Carfree Day 2006 (note
the pig on his bars).

“As a Consular Officer,” the website says, “you’ll use your problem-solving and managerial skills along with your sense of public service to address challenges facing U.S. citizens who are traveling, living, or conducting business abroad.”

To anyone that knows Pickett, that role seems like a perfect and natural fit.

Pickett has been a Portland Police Officer for nine years. According to BikePortland archives, he first got publicly involved with bicycling issues in September 2006. Close readers of this site will recall his efforts to rally community support for more bike patrol units. You might also recall the several thoughtful guest articles he wrote on topics ranging from why cops ride on sidewalks to the importance of humility.

Cross Crusade '08 - Alpenrose-26.jpg

He recently took up cyclocross.

As he continued to assert his interest in bicycling, Pickett became a crucial bridge between the community and the police — two groups that have had their share of contentious times.

Controversy and emotionally-charged issues are where Pickett shined. After a man on a bike was tackled and tasered by a police officer in 2008, Pickett shared a candid perspective on the incident.

When tensions reached a boiling point following several tragedies in October of 2007, Pickett was there to help calm the waters.

Ultimately, Pickett’s work was noticed by then Police Chief Rosie Sizer; who honored him with a community policing award and appointed him as an official community liaison on bike issues. Since then, Pickett has deepened his commitment to the community and he has helped usher in an unprecedented era of partnership and cooperation that was capped in October 2009 with a Community Policing Agreement between the police and bicycle advocates.

While his impact on policy, advocacy and community relations can’t be overstated, many in the community will simply remember him as the cop who was photographed riding on a tall bike.

Reached via phone earlier this week, Pickett said the decision to take the new job has been bittersweet.

“It continues to be emotional for us, it’s not like we’re unhappy here in Portland or anxious to go.” But for Pickett, it’s a chance he can’t ignore. “This seems like a chance of a lifetime… It was just too good to pass up.”

Bicycle Master Plan ride #3

Pickett spoke up for bicycling during
the fight to retain funding for the
Bike Master Plan in April 2007.

With a wife and 17 month-old daughter, Pickett has put down roots in Portland. “It feels like quite an abyss to jump into,” he told me, “but at the same time, we believe it will be a fascinating experience.”

Pickett says he’s looking forward to the possibility of being stationed in a foreign country. He lived abroad (in Japan) for three and a half years during college. Traveling, he says, is a, “powerful and important experience” and Pickett sees his new job as a chance to “learn about other cultures and compare/learn about my own from afar.”

Of his work on bike issues, Pickett says, “Working with people in the bike community and on transportation issues has been very fullfilling. I’ve made some powerful and important relationships.”

Pickett was a rare breed. He had a way of listening, asking questions, and presenting perspectives that had a tremendous impact on many issues. His presence in our community will be incredibly missed.

Thank you Robert for your service to our city and to our community.

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  • Lance P. May 10, 2011 at 6:58 pm

    While I’m happy that he has gotten this opportunity, he will be sorely missed in Portland. At a time when virtual no one trust the police, he has been the one shining example of what we hope the PPD could be.

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    • matt picio May 11, 2011 at 9:39 am

      The community’s relationship with the police has been rocky, to be sure, but in addition to Robert Pickett’s stellar example, many in the PPB have stepped up and worked with the bike community on a number of issues – Special Event Sergeant Erin Smith, Chief Mike Reese, Captain Eric Hendriks, Lieutenant Bryan Parman, and many others. We can always find incidents that are bad if we look hard enough – I’m sure someone could point out at least one incident with each of these officers – but that’s true with everyone. We take normal people and put them in an extraordinary role with difficult responsibilities – and we call them to a higher level of performance and professionalism because of it. Overall, these men and women do outstanding work. We should always hold them accountable when they don’t, but we should also recognize their performance when it is good – law enforcement is one of those professions where the practitioners always hear when they’ve done something wrong, and rarely when they do something right. If we want our cops to not be jaded, cynical, and looking at us all as potential criminals, then our responsibility as citizens is to hold up are own end with making police-public interactions safe, professional, and personable.

      Congratulations to Robert Pickett – we’ll miss you here, and I wish you luck and best wishes to you and your family.

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  • Paul Tay May 10, 2011 at 7:29 pm

    Honored to have met him in ’08. I bet his bike messengering experience really went over real well with FSO recruiters.

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  • bhance May 10, 2011 at 7:39 pm

    Nooooo! Pdx just lost one of its best 🙁

    But the foreign service just picked up a huge plus.

    Best of luck to him wherever he ends up.

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  • K'Tesh May 10, 2011 at 7:47 pm

    That’s exciting news! I’m happy for him, but saddened by our loss. Congrats Robert!

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  • Andy May 10, 2011 at 8:01 pm

    Congratulations! Although I will miss your work with the bike community and your articles in StreetRoots I’m happy to know a fine example like you will now be serving the entire nation. Portlands loss is Americas gain.

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  • Burk May 10, 2011 at 9:10 pm

    Congratulations officer Picket! You will be missed!

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  • Paul May 10, 2011 at 9:43 pm

    Congrats Robert! Exciting opportunity to say the least!

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  • Rol May 10, 2011 at 9:45 pm

    Sucks for us, good for him!

    PS Thanks for not saying “the bike community!” 😉

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  • Dan May 10, 2011 at 9:54 pm

    Robert, Jen & I will miss you & your family. For those that don’t know, Robert’s also a really cagey ultimate frisbee player and a great guy to be around.

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  • Jessica Roberts May 10, 2011 at 10:39 pm

    They broke the mold when they made Robert Pickett. Such a kind, thoughful, and dedicated public servant, and person as well. I am very sad for Portland, and for myself, that he’s leaving, but I can’t imagine a better person to represent our country to other nations. Come back and visit! We’ll throw you a special bike ride when you’re back in town.

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  • Heather McCarey May 10, 2011 at 10:48 pm

    Congratulations to Robert. I completely admire the grace and poise he brought to bike related issues and wish him well in his new adventures. There will always be a place for him here in Portland.

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  • Andrew Seger May 10, 2011 at 11:21 pm

    Congratulations Officer Pickett! As someone who has been eyeing a career in consular services once I’m done with my Peace Corps stint it’s good to know the high level of personal I’d be joining.

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  • Bill Stites May 10, 2011 at 11:27 pm

    Big congratulations – thanks to Robert for all he’s done for many communities in Portland.

    Sad to see him go, but happy for his family’s opportunity.

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  • 'Hen May 10, 2011 at 11:41 pm

    JM -thanks for posting this. Sorry.I had to miss tonight’s BAC mtg! While your readers know about Officer Pickett’s contributions via his work with the Police Bureau, they should also appreciate the diplomacy and even-handedness he exercised on their behalf as Vice Chair of the Portland Bicycle Advisory Committee these last few years. Not just a public servant, but a true advocate for the public interest.

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  • Ben Foote May 10, 2011 at 11:44 pm

    For those of us who know Robert from the Ultimate (frisbee) community, you should understand a few things…
    – that guy is in incredible shape
    – he plays really hard defense, which is usually the side of the game that ultimate players will slack off on after their “days at Carleton”
    – which of course makes him a total threat when he’s on the field
    – he is as magnanimous and human during games and heated competition as he is in any other aspect of his life, which of course would surprise no one

    Sad to see him go, but proud to have someone of his caliber representing us to the world.

    If he doesn’t end up as an ambassador, I hope that he’ll be back here as chief someday.

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  • Amos May 11, 2011 at 7:48 am

    This man has done great things for the community. Congratulations on the move up!

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  • Rebecca May 11, 2011 at 7:49 am

    Good Luck, Officer Pickett! You’ll be dearly missed here but your eloquence, tact, and mediation skills will be greatly appreciated in the international scene. Wishing you all the best.

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  • the "other" steph May 11, 2011 at 9:18 am

    Robert, you are the cat’s pajamas! You will be sorely missed and fondly remembered in Portland. Hope to have a flimsy excuse to visit you wherever you and the fam end up. Thank you for your leadership, thoughtfulness, and inspiring empathy.

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  • bearcub May 11, 2011 at 7:05 pm

    what?! no photos of pickett riding a tallbike? those are the best.

    i remember he would show up at bike events after a squad car and say something like “i heard over the scanner, so i had to come check out the fun.” many of the freakbikes around town have had that fine taint grace their saddles.

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  • craig May 11, 2011 at 10:52 pm

    Any other juicy bits from the BAC?

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  • Julia rhode jacobs May 15, 2011 at 5:59 pm

    Robert is amazing and I am so lucky he is my nephew in law. Only a man as patient as he could have taught my daughter how to drive with a clutch on the hilly and slippery roads of Costa Rica!

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