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Ashley Anderson

Things are moving awfully quick for Police Chief Larry O'Dea these days. Five days after it became public that O'Dea mistakenly shot a friend on April 21, he's on paid aministrative leave.

Here's a statement from Mayor Charlie Hales, who just made that call despite knowing about the incident for nearly a month:

“We need our Police Bureau operating at its best, and our officers can’t do that when there’s turmoil and confusion surrounding their leader. Chief O’Dea has been providing excellent service as our police chief, and now needs to focus on these investigations. He and I agree that going on administrative leave during these open investigations is in the best interest of the Bureau and the city."

It's a weird reversal for Hales. Days ago, his office was arguing it was entirely proper not to tell the public that its police chief shot a man, since O'Dea was off duty and hadn't been arrested or charged. Now, the incident's being investigated by no fewer than four entities—the Oregon Department of Justice, the Oregon State Police, the city’s Independent Police Review (IPR), and the PPB’s own Professional Standards Division—and Hales says those investigations are reason enough for the chief to be on leave.

But by keeping the incident under wraps, Hales essentially prevented at least one of those investigations—IPR's. It's not totally clear when the PPB's standards division began looking into it. A bureau spokesperson told Willamette Week on Friday that he'd not heard about the incident. Update, 1:18 pm: That spokesperson, Sgt. Pete Simpson, says the internal investigation began on April 25.

The case was referred to the Oregon DOJ on May 16, after Sheriff Dave Ward learned about O'Dea's involvement. He'd first been told the chief's friend shot himself in the back.

The silence has rankled citizens and cops alike. The city's rank-and-file police union, the Portland Police Association, released a statement cheering O'Dea being placed on leave.

"Based on the severity of the allegations regarding an incident in Harney County involving Chief Larry O'Dea, we strongly believe that Chief O'Dea should step aside during the investigation," it says.

One former police commissioner, Dan Saltzman, declined to comment on the situation when the Mercury asked this morning. "I don't have a take on that," he said. "I'm sort of watching things like you are."

Meanwhile, Mayor-elect Ted Wheeler is "actively tracking developments at the city" and "looks forward to a full accounting of the facts," according to a statement from spokesperson Michael Cox.

Assistant Chief Donna Henderson is acting as chief while O'Dea's off.

Hit the jump for the full statement from Hales' office.


Mayor Charlie Hales has placed Portland Police Chief Larry O’Dea on administrative leave, pending the outcome of several open internal and external investigations.

“We need our Police Bureau operating at its best, and our officers can’t do that when there’s turmoil and confusion surrounding their leader,” Mayor Hales said. “Chief O’Dea has been providing excellent service as our police chief, and now needs to focus on these investigations. He and I agree that going on administrative leave during these open investigations is in the best interest of the Bureau and the city.

“I am awaiting the outcome of internal and external investigations before commenting about the incident, and urge all Portlanders to do the same.”

In late April, Chief O’Dea was on vacation in Harney County, when he had a negligent discharge from his .22 caliber rifle that injured one of his close friends. The injured man was treated and released from the hospital and the Harney County Sheriff’s Office was notified of the incident.

Oregon State Police, Oregon Department of Justice, Portland Police Bureau Professional Standards, and Portland Independent Police Review have open investigations into the incident.

Chief O’Dea has been given a Communication Restriction Order by the Portland Independent Police Review, which is a written order that restricts the Chief from discussing the facts of the case.

Assistant Chief Donna Henderson will be acting chief while Chief O’Dea is on leave. Mayor Hales is currently at a conference in Washington, D.C., and returns Wednesday.