Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell will step down from his position in three weeks, with an interim police chief stepping into the role until June 2025. Bob Day, who retired from Portland Police Bureau in 2019 after serving as deputy chief of police, will step into the role of chief until June 2025.
The announcement was made Wednesday, September 20 at a press briefing with Mayor Ted Wheeler, Lovell, and Day. Wheeler said the move is part of a broader effort to set the city up for transition, come January 2025.
“As I noted last week, we stand on the precipice of a complete overhaul of our city’s government, and I take very seriously my responsibility to deliver a functional city to the new mayor and the new City Council,” Wheeler said. He said the best path forward is to appoint an interim chief now, while giving the next mayor the option to recruit and appoint a long-term police chief, come 2025.
Lovell, who joined PPB in 2002, confirmed he isn’t retiring, and will remain with PPB for the time being, serving in a community engagement role, starting October 11.
“I was appointed at a very turbulent time for our city and our bureau,” Lovell said. “I’m proud of the accomplishments of the police bureau.”
Lovell said he is eligible to retire in 2027. Whether he’ll spend the rest of those years in Portland remains to be seen, but Lovell said he never aspired to serve as police chief before being tapped for the role in June 2020.
“I took this job because the city tapped me and needed me to fill that role, and I did that to the best of my ability,” Lovell told the Mercury.
"We’ve had an ongoing discussion about transition,” Lovell said of his conversations with the mayor. “I always knew I wasn’t gonna do it for seven years, or the rest of my career, and then the question was always, ‘well, when is the right time?’”
Wheeler thanked Lovell, saying the longtime police lieutenant and chief for the last three years has his respect and gratitude, noting Lovell stepped forward to lead PPB “during one of the most difficult times in our city’s history.”
Lovell stepped into the leadership role three months into the pandemic, amid the social unrest and protests of 2020. Lovell will transition his role at the bureau as Portland gears up to transition its form of government. Phasing in the charter reform elements before 2025 is a priority for Wheeler before he leaves office.
Wheeler said Day, who first became a police officer in Portland in 1990, will be able to step into the interim chief role with ease, and can see the bureau through the city’s pivot to a new government structure.
Incoming Interim Chief Day said he won’t stick around past 2025, but heeded the call to come out of retirement.
Day gave a polished speech, peppering in quotes from novelist and civil rights activist James Baldwin, and touching on the death of his young son in 2016 to cancer. Day said he’s not naive, rather, “hopeful” about what PPB and the city can accomplish. He said his son's diagnosis taught his family the necessity of hope.
Day said he hopes to establish trust with the community and continue PPB’s recent hiring efforts, to bolster staffing and carryout more of the gun violence reduction efforts already underway.
During his previous tenure at PPB, Day served as second-in-command to former Police Chief, Danielle Outlaw, and oversaw training for the bureau. He was head of training in 2018, when police circulated training materials with a derogatory meme that joked about pepper spraying and beating protesters. The internal training presentation later became the subject of an internal investigation and was included as evidence in lawsuits against the city and its police bureau.
Day also led the city's Central Precinct operations when police and then-mayor Charlie Hales started reversing course on approaches to homelessness, using sweeps and embracing a program to charge people who frequently camped on sidewalks with misdemeanors.
The incoming interim chief said he’s looking forward to working with Lovell again, noting Lovell was “instrumental in a real pivotal change in my understanding around community engagement and African American police relations.”
Day held up a book Lovell gave him two decades ago, Courageous Conversations Around Race.
The gift from Lovell came years before Day was on scene in 2010 during a welfare check of Aaron Campbell, an unarmed Black man who was fatally shot in the back by police. Later reporting alleged that Day called the incident commander away for an on-scene briefing, when Campbell came out of an apartment and officers opened fire on him. Day never faced discipline for his actions, but the incident commander and other officers did.
While many see Portland recovering from the effects of the pandemic, economic downturn and omnipresent livability issues, Day says he sees Portland as a city with the potential to be what it once was.
“At my heart, I’m passionate about the city. I’m passionate about the Police Bureau, and I absolutely hopeful that Portland can once again become a city and a place, a destination for families, business, tourism, community service, grassroots initiatives—the things that we are all so familiar with, and remember and long for,” Day said.