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The Street Trust puts street safety issues on radar of Police Chief Danielle Outlaw

Posted by on May 10th, 2018 at 1:15 pm

Portland Police Chief Danielle Outlaw attended an informal reception at The Street Trust last night.
(Photos: Jonathan Maus)

Portland’s 48th Police Chief doesn’t ride a bike because she thinks it’s too dangerous. But her path to pedaling began last night.

Danielle Outlaw shared her fear of cycling in traffic and other thoughts with a small group of people at an invite-only reception hosted by The Street Trust at their headquarters on NW Glisan Street in Old Town last night.

“There are a lot of folks who want a say — but at some point we’ve got to get stuff done.”
— Danielle Outlaw, Portland Police Chief

The event was billed as a way for donors and partners of the organization to meet Chief Outlaw and ask her questions about how her work intersects with transportation issues.

Outlaw has been in her position for seven months, and although she lives just a short drive (six minutes by her estimate) from work, she hasn’t gotten up the courage to go by bike. As if wanting to clear the air from the outset, Outlaw shared with the audience, “I don’t feel comfortable riding on the streets just yet. I actually never have.” She insisted it wasn’t a Portland thing (“I brought this [feeling about biking] with me,” she’d say later) and she also sounded willing to give it a try.

Her inspiration appears to have come in large part from an anonymous young boy she saw biking one morning on her way to work. “He was just five or six years old,” Outlaw shared, “And I’m there with my mom hat on, wondering if his mom or dad is riding alongside him because I was so nervous for him. But he didn’t care. He was so cautious. He crossed the street, in the bike lane… and he did it! And I thought, gosh, if he can do it, I can do it.”

Outlaw specifically mentioned the possibility of riding on Bike to Work Day on May 18th. The Street Trust Board Member David Forman pounced on that opening and offered to lead her on a ride if she was interested (stay tuned).

Chief Outlaw and Traffic Division Capt. Mike Crebs field a question.

Becoming a bicycle rider will surely not be the toughest thing Outlaw tackles as she becomes a bona fide Portlander.

Asked about the biggest adjustment she’s had to make since being here, Outlaw gave an answer many readers of this site can relate to: “It’s the ‘Portland polite’ thing,” she said. “I’m learning to navigate through that. I’m very inclusive, process-wise, but because of the Portland polite and the fact that we’re very process-driven, there are a lot of folks who want a say — but at some point we’ve got to get stuff done.”

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Asked what could be done to bring speeds down, Outlaw alluded to the bureau’s staffing levels. “The question is, what can we do better to make sure we are visible when we don’t have a physical presence? If we have a photo radar somewhere, what is the follow-up?” Outlaw also talked up the importance of raising awareness and working with other agencies and partners. After officers do an enforcement mission, for instance, she wants to know: “How are we relaying the message to the community that this [enforcement] happened? All these people got cited, now here’s why this can happen to you. Messaging is huge. There are so few [officers], we can only be in so many places at one time.”

PPB Traffic Division Captain Mike Crebs joined Chief Outlaw at the event. As we’ve reported recently, Capt. Crebs has emerged as a strong champion for safe streets. He’s a member of the Vision Zero Task Force and has testified in support of Transportation Bureau policies numerous times.

“The speed issue is near and dear to my heart,” Crebs said last night as he followed-up on comments from his Chief. When he said, “I’d really love if the City of Portland had the ability to set its own speed limits,” referencing the fact that State of Oregon currently has that authority, the entire room erupted in applause.

But of course traffic laws and speed limits must be coupled with an effective enforcement strategy. Chief Outlaw insisted on several occasions last night that all PPB enforcement decisions are “made through an equity lens.” She said she expects all her officers to engage in community policing and that she wants implicit bias training bureau-wide.

The Street Trust Director of Programs and Events Judge Kemp takes a selfie with PPB Chief Danielle Outlaw.

The Street Trust took an important step in hosting this event last night. It’s long past time to rebuild and strengthen ties between transportation advocates and the police bureau.

In the past few years street safety has slipped as a political priority as other serious crises like homelessness, housing affordability, police use-of-force, and social justice issues have dominated headlines and council agendas. Mobility and safety on public streets intersects with many of those issues, and building bonds in our community to tackle them is critical if we want to “get stuff done.”

Last night The Street Trust Executive Director Jillian Detweiler told Outlaw that the existing Transportation Community Policing Agreement (passed in 2009) “has atrophied.” As I shared in a 2015 post that outlined several steps City Hall could take to improve bike safety, I absolutely agree.

Chief Outlaw will hopefully oversee big changes at the PPB. Transportation reform advocates need to be part of them. Last night was a good start.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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9watts
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9watts

Judge smiling with Outlaw; I like it.

So sick of the ‘not enough police officers’ reply to every question.

Last time I checked, crime was down by a lot across all categories. Starting with murders: 54 in 1993, 14 in 2016. And corrected for population growth all of the stats would of course be even more dramatic. So why is the ratio we always hear from the police and elected officials cops/population rather than cops/crimes?

http://www.city-data.com/crime/crime-Portland-Oregon.html
https://www.portlandoregon.gov/police/article/29794

Dan A
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Dan A

I’d really love to see the PPD, as well as all other local law enforcement, go back to setting the example when driving. Drive at or below the speed limit, use turn signals well in advance, etc. When I do see police driving around around the city (a rare sight these days, due to the noted staffing issues), they are often passing me, going well over the speed limit. Seems like a pretty cheap (free) way to encourage better behavior from the drivers on our streets.

Rain Waters
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Rain Waters

This is an amazing win-win. Work it, work it.

Tom
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Tom

Did the Street Trust ask when they are going to recapture Abdulrahman Noorah?

Chris I
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Chris I

Speed cameras don’t require any additional officers and have no bias.

Craig Giffen
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Craig Giffen

Her fears are warranted, just yesterday my friend was biking to work near downtown, got right hooked by a truck that drove over him and broke his pelvis in three places. Surgery is tomorrow.

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

Dan A
I’d really love to see the PPD, as well as all other local law enforcement, go back to setting the example when driving. Drive at or below the speed limit, use turn signals well in advance, etc. When I do see police driving around around the city (a rare sight these days, due to the noted staffing issues), they are often passing me, going well over the speed limit.

This.

Before moving to OR, I lived in a place where cops obeyed the law. One of my buddies worked for the state police and said he’d get in loads of trouble for speeding without a good reason. When I encounter police on the roads, my experiences are identical to what you describe.

When those charged with enforcing the law don’t follow it themselves, it invites contempt for the law.

That the top cop is fearful of using active transportation for a six minute drive says something, but I’m not sure what.

pdx2wheeler
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pdx2wheeler

How sad is it that the Police Chief is too afraid to even ride on our streets, and yet seemingly okay with that…?

HJ
Guest
HJ

1 catch that has got to change is the problem with our safe passing law. At present it only applies over 35mph. We do a grave disservice to cyclists with this as it forces us to balance whether we want the protections of that law or lower speeds. It’s a ridiculous problem.
Frankly I’m not surprised she’s uncomfortable with the thought of riding given that she undoubtedly knows about the absurdities such as this in our legal code. Law enforcement can only work with the laws they have available, and many of ours fail us spectacularly.

Tim
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Tim

Did anyone invite her to go fro a ride with them. Or, explain that even with the risk of getting run over, the health benefits of active transportation out way the risk.

If I could get a brave office to ride with me on my way to work, they would have seen at least a dozen drivers speeding in residential areas and school zones, a driver taking notes while driving and speeding, two drivers on their phone in a school zone, 4 red light runners and a failure to yield. Just another average day.

cam
Subscriber

In Sweden, 1970, I observed an effective technique to keep cars from passing too closely. On the rear carrier, there was mounted a horizontal fibreglass pole, with a goodly orange warning pennant, and a sharp pointy brass finial. Any car that passed too closely got an audibale warning vibration on the side of the car. Like the curb feelers that cars used to have.

Lukas
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Lukas

Why do police officers feel the need to carry their weapons (handgun, baton etc.) into a meeting at a meeting with a community group? Is there ever a time when they can go somewhere in their official capacity and not carry lethal weaponry?

Catie
Guest
Catie

Time and time again Portland police decline to cite people who drive their cars into other people, even when car drivers are clearly at fault. Did no one at this meeting bring up this very recent example? https://bikeportland.org/2018/04/13/collision-on-se-ankeny-at-24th-sends-bike-rider-to-the-hospital-275387

Bjorn
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Bjorn

I’d like to hear what the chief thinks about the idea that some people are scared to bike because it makes them vulnerable to attacks like this one:

https://bikeportland.org/2008/06/11/man-on-a-bike-is-tackled-then-tasered-by-portland-police-7846