YOU KNOW, absent the occasional shooting by the police chief that goes casually unmentioned for a month, the Portland Police Bureau has been on an okay streak lately.
Officers still screw up, of course—as in a recent case where a woman reported being followed for blocks by a menacing man downtown, and says she was chastised by a cop over it.
But in recent years, the city's avoided truly shocking incidents, like the 2010 Aaron Campbell shooting, where a distressed, unarmed black man was shot in the back. Or the 2006 James Chasse case, where officers tackled a man with mental illness who ran when they approached, resulting in his death. Or a bunch of other salient examples that are often brought up.
There are absolutely challenges remaining at the bureau—not least of which is the culture at the rank-and-file cop union, the Portland Police Association. But at the same time, Mayor Charlie Hales' frequent sunny assessments of the PPB's progress in recent years aren't coming out of thin air.
Which made the past Monday, June 27, especially surprising.
That morning, Hales made official what everyone had expected for weeks: Police Chief Larry O'Dea, beset by scandal after shooting his friend in April, was retiring after nearly 30 years.
In his place, Hales appointed Mike Marshman, a police captain with 25 years at the bureau, who's been intimately involved in the city's settlement with the federal government over police abuses.
Marshman, 50, has been the face of the PPB before. He's fielded media questions under two police chiefs.
Now he's at the top. And what was so stunning about his first day on the job was just how inadequate he clearly found the police force's leadership.
Within hours of being sworn in as chief, Marshman had demoted three of the bureau's assistant chiefs to captain, slashing their pay. He handpicked three other high-ranking officers—two commanders and a captain—to take their place.
A fourth assistant chief, Donna Henderson, had been running the bureau since O'Dea was placed on paid leave in late May. She immediately elected to retire (it's unclear if demotion was her other option).
It was a seismic shakeup, and it didn't stop there.
Marshman swapped police commanders to new positions, and promoted captains to fill their place. And, tellingly, he transferred the bureau's internal affairs captain, Derek Rodrigues, to the Family Services Division.
It's the sort of wholesale change you expect from a bureau in deep crisis cleanup mode, and it's hard to imagine Hales—who'd stressed Marshman would be able to select his own command staff—didn't have at least a sense that it was coming.
Which has to make you wonder: How great could things really have been going at the police bureau before O'Dea fired that errant shot? And what does Marshman intuit about an ongoing administrative investigation into the shooting that would necessitate such dramatic change?
Oh, and most crucially: Will things be any different with this new batch of leaders?