Police chief, union leader warn budget cuts would end Traffic Division

Traffic Division headquarters in St. Johns.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

The head of the Portland Police Bureau and the Portland Police Association union have sent out dire warnings about impacts to law enforcement capabilities if a proposal (PDF) for $18 million in budget cuts are passed by council next week. Chief Chuck Lovell and PPA President Daryl Turner have many concerns about the cuts including what they say would lead to the end of the Traffic Division — the unit that issues about 90% of all traffic tickets, responds to transportation-related concerns and investigates serious injury and fatal crashes.

As we shared yesterday, Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty and Commissioner Chloe Eudaly have laid out the cuts as part of their ongoing efforts to rein in a “bloated” budget and “rethink” policing — which they feel isn’t in line with Portland values and has become overly-aggressive and militarized.

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Traffic Division officers star in new PPB ‘Talking Beat’ podcast

Traffic Division Sgt. Ty Engstrom is featured in the new podcast.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Everyone’s podcasting these days… including your local police officers.

The Portland Police Bureau launched a new podcast today. The ‘Talking Beat’ aims to provide, “Thoughtful conversations that… will inform and provide you with a small glimpse of the work performed by Portland police officers as well as issues affecting public safety in our city.” Among the first three episodes unveiled today included a discussion about transportation issues.

Traffic Division Sgt. Ty Engstrom and Ofc. Chris Johnson joined the host for a wide-ranging chat that included topics like distracted driving, visibility of walkers (or lack thereof), why people are allowed to speed without being cited, and more. (You might recall that Sgt. Engstrom was recently featured in our story about stop sign enforcement at Ladd Circle.)

Below are a few salient excerpts:

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Portland Police Bureau names (another) new Traffic Division captain

New PPB Traffic Division Captain Stephanie Lourenco.

On June 28th, Portland Police Chief Danielle Outlaw will promote Lieutenant Stephanie Lourenco to the rank of captain of the Traffic Division. We follow that position closely here on BikePortland because it’s the Traffic Division captain who has the most influence over street safety and transportation-related issues.

Lourenco will replace Michael Crebs, who is taking a position in parking enforcement with the Portland Bureau of Transportation.

The promotion of Lourenco to Captain is notable for several reasons: Stephanie is the first transgender person in the Bureau’s history to hold that rank, the first non cis-gendered person to lead the division since at least 2005, and just the latest in a long-running trend of short-lived captains at the Traffic Division. Since I started keeping track we’ve had Bill Sinnott, Marty Rowley, Vince Jarmer, Larry O’Dea, Eric Hendricks, Bryan Parman, Todd Wyatt, Eric Schober, and Michael Crebs. This frequent turnover makes it much more difficult to establish the the type of relationships with city staff, advocacy groups, and the community-at-large that we need to fix complex problems.

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Todd Wyatt is the new captain at Traffic Division

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward
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.

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Hendricks latest through revolving door at PPB Traffic Division

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward
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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Traffic Division names new captain

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward

The Portland Police Bureau Traffic Division has chosen a new captain. Officer Eric Hendricks, who has been in the bureau for 23 years and was most recently in charge of its Training Division, will now lead the Traffic Division.

Assistant Chief and former Traffic Division Captain Larry O’Dea shared the news with me yesterday and O’Dea said he’ll personally introduce Hendricks at a tonight’s meeting of the City of Portland Bicycle Advisory Committee.

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

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward
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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