PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — After just six months on the job, Portland Police Bureau Chief Jami Resch announced she was stepping down from the position Monday, effective immediately, and was being replaced by Lt. Charles “Chuck” Lovell, an African American man, as the city faces the 11th night of protests.
“To say this was ‘unexpected’ would be an understatement,” Lt. Lovell began. “I told Chief Resch over the last few weeks that I would do everything in my power to help her through these challenging times and that I’d be at her disposal to help lift her up and help her be successful.”
Lovell said he was completely surprised by Resch’s request Sunday night to take over. He’s been with PPB for since May 2002, rising through the ranks. He became a lieutenant in 2017.
Most recently, Lovell was head the a new Community Services Division as Acting Captain. He was also in the upper command as former Chief Danielle Outlaw’s executive assistant.
“When your boss comes to you and she says the community needs you the police bureau needs you, to me it’s not the time to shrink and back down,” Lovell said at the press conference. “Leadership is necessary right now. There is a lot of hurt and healing that’s needed and if I could be the start of some of that, then it’s my duty to do that.”
He hopes to bring back trust in the community.
“This is going to be hard,” Lovell said of the job that lies ahead for PPB. “I don’t have any illusions about that, but […] standing up against injustice, that’s hard too.”
Watch full Q&A at press conference
Resch’s announcement came in what was scheduled to be an update from Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler on the city’s response to the continued demonstrations spurred by the death of George Floyd; nearly 100 arrests happened over the past weekend alone and likely more than 200 arrests over the course of the protests since May 29.
Resch said selecting Lt. Lovell to take her spot was the right thing to do given the circumstances, but also because of Lovell’s honorable reputation.
“[Lovell] is the exact right person,” she said of her replacement. “Chuck is the most compassionate, honest, humble, genuine-to-the-core person.”
Resch said she will stay on at PPB in a yet-to-be-determined role.
Wheeler said he is 100% confident Lovell is the right person for the job.
Letter over concerns of Black leadership
The press conference also comes on the heels of a letter from three black civic groups—Word Is Bond, Black Male Achievement Portland and the Coalition of Black Men—sent to Wheeler, Resch, City Council commissioners, and the city’s police union about concerns regarding the lack of Black leadership within the ranks of the bureau.
“This system, with its multiple-layered processes to ensure the utmost transparency, opportunities, and inclusiveness that has been promised, reeks of internal nepotism that perpetuates itself,” the leaders of the civic groups wrote. “It is exclusive of community oversight, diverse staff, and at best marginalizes the contribution of equity professionals.”
On Sunday, the pattern of protest followed an increasingly familiar theme: A large, peaceful group of protesters makes their point against police brutality for hours, then disperses. Later, a smaller, separate group of protesters then turns increasingly violent outside the Justice Center, which is fenced off to prevent further damage.
Late Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, the protests were declared an unlawful assembly. Each night, “agitators” tossed items at law enforcement officers. On Saturday night, a powerful firework was tossed inside the fence at the Justice Center and exploded near two Multnomah County deputies. Both were evaluated for concussions.
Friday night Wheeler met with the protesters, as did Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty. Wheeler ordered tear gas not be used unless life was in danger.
Asking the tough questions
On Friday, KOIN 6 News reporter Lisa Balick asked Wheeler about whether, as the city’s police commissioner, he had concerns about the lack of people of color in leadership roles within the Portland Police Bureau.
Wheeler said he strongly supports diversity, adding one of his goals is to improve the relationship between communities of color and police in Portland, in addition to bringing on more people of color into his administration’s leadership team.
“I’m of a different lived experience than the people who have been impacted by this systemic and institutional racism, and so having that diversity, I think, enhances our perspectives, gives us points of voice,” Wheeler said. “The answer is yes, I would absolutely support working with the police chief and others to ensure that we continue to have those different voices centered in our conversations about policing, along with everything else we do in this community.”
Wheeler hired Danielle Outlaw to serve as Portland’s first black female police chief; Outlaw left Portland to become police commissioner of Philadelphia at the end of December 2019.
Watch full announcement at press conference