Beloved Portland Police officer Robert Pickett moves on

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.”

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

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.

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.”

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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