Why Portland’s new Chief of Police is good news for bicycling

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Platinum celebration at City Hall-61.jpg

New Chief of Police Larry O’Dea outside City Hall in 2008. He’s standing with former Bicycle Liaison Officer Robert Pickett.
(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

Portland Police Chief Mike Reese announced his retirement today, and when the new chief steps in to replace him in January, his name might sound familiar to some BikePortland readers.

Larry O’Dea, a former captain of the bureau’s Traffic Division, is the new Chief of Police.

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Hendricks latest through revolving door at PPB Traffic Division

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Traffic Division Captain Eric Hendricks-1

Former Traffic Division Captain
Eric Hendricks has moved into
the Chief’s office.
(Photo © J. Maus)

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.

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Passage of agreement marks new era for police, bike relations

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Police Chief Rose Sizer talks with traffic safety activists Susie Kubota and Erin Greeson after the City Council meeting yesterday.
(Photos © J. Maus)

Today, the Portland City Council unanimously approved the Transportation Community Policing Agreement.

At yesterday’s Council meeting, the four City Commissioners (Mayor Adams is away) heard testimony from traffic safety advocates and representatives from the Police Bureau and the Bureau of Transportation (PBOT). There was also a screening of the bicycle traffic enforcement training video released last week.

Before the meeting, I sat down with Susie Kubota outside Council Chambers. Kubota is the aunt of Tracey Sparling, 19-year former art student who died on October 11, 2007 after being right-hooked by a garbage truck in downtown Portland. Sparling’s death, and the death of Brett Jarolimek 11 days later and a serious injury collision at the same location just two weeks after that, were the catalysts for this agreement.

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BTA, Police Bureau launch latest incarnation of bike light education program

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riding along with Officer Hoesly

A Portland police officer gives
out a free set of bike lights
back in August 2006.
(Photos J. Maus)

As part of their ongoing Eye to Eye campaign, the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) and the Traffic Division of the Portland Police Bureau have partnered up on an effort to increase awareness of using bike lights and being more visible while riding. Their efforts build on a history of bike light advocacy here in Portland that started over three years ago.

According to a press release issued this morning, the BTA will kick off the project tomorrow with an event at the “Seven Corners” intersection (SE Division, SE Ladd, and SE 20th). They’ll be serving “mocktails” (non-alcoholic beverages) and giving cyclists information about lights and visibility.

That event will be followed by a series of “targeted bike light education and enforcement actions” by the Police Bureau. The actions are slated to begin next week and the plan is for police officers to educate non-lit cyclists about light laws, pass out safety information, and install free lights (thanks to an ODOT grant) when necessary.

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Magazine editor blames bike lanes for Portland fatalities

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Download article here (115 kb PDF)
Copyright 2008 by John Schubert and
reprinted with permission from
Adventure Cyclist magazine

In the April issue of Adventure Cyclist magazine, technical editor John Schubert writes that “poorly designed” bike lanes were to blame for the recent deaths of Tracey Sparling and Brett Jarolimek.

In, Portland’s Agony: Two cyclists died as a result of poorly designed traffic-control devices, Schubert uses his monthly Cyclesense column as a pulpit to slam PDOT bicycle coordinator Roger Geller and find fault with the current direction of bikeway design in the most bike-friendly city in America (the article is not available online, but you can download a PDF here — posted with permission from Adventure Cyclist Magazine.)

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Captain and Kruger will leave Traffic Division

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Lt. Mark Kruger, PPB

Lt. Mark Kruger will no longer
work in the Traffic Division.
(Photo © Jonathan Maus)

Some major personnel changes have been made at the Portland Police Bureau’s Traffic Division.

Speaking from her cell phone a few minutes ago, Assistant Chief of Police Lynnae Berg confirmed that Captain Vince Jarmer and Lieutenant Mark Kruger will soon be leaving the Traffic Division (this division is the most important part of the Bureau for bikes because they write 80% of traffic tickets, they conduct crash investigations, and they work parades).

Berg says that Jarmer is transferring to become commander of the Transit Police Division. Lieutenant Larry O’Dea will be promoted to captain to take Jarmer’s place.

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Police quotes raise safety concerns

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Education about bicycle laws is a major factor in keeping our roads safe for everyone. Increasing awareness and understanding of these laws is just as important as any bike safety infrastructure or policy changes.

That’s why some cyclists are concerned that a quote attributed to a Portland Police Bureau employee and published by the Oregonian on Sunday, not only makes this education effort more difficult but it contributes to a more dangerous environment on our streets.

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The media, the Police, and bike lanes

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Screenshot of Oregonian’s web headline.

I don’t have time to share as much as I’d like right now, but given the massive front page story by the Oregonian today, I have to share some thoughts.

First, I am disappointed at the Oregonian’s story, especially at a time when emotions are so raw.

Also, it is important, that we keep this tragedy in perspective. Overall, according to experts I spoke to this morning, the type of collision that took Sparling’s life is very rare.

That being said, Portland obviously has room to improve.

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Vince Jarmer named new Traffic Division commander

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(Photo: Jonathan Maus)

The Portland Police Bureau has named Vince Jarmer as the new Commander of the Traffic Division. The change became effective as of August 9th.

Jarmer was formerly the Lieutenant of the Traffic Division (under former Commander Bill Sinnott) and was most recently Captain of the Personnel Division.

Jarmer takes over the commander position from Mark Kruger, who will return to his role of Lieutenant after serving as Acting Commander since January.

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Zoobombers, cops share concerns

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After the meeting. L to R: Lawyer Mark Ginsberg, Traffic Division Sgt. Mike Fort, Commander Mark Kruger, and Zoobombers Dave Terry, Leah Bendlin, and Corey Sevigny.
(File photo)

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