Aug 5, 2020
Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell Press Conference Transcript August 5
Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell held a press conference on August 5. He said: “We want to get to the conversations, the reforms, the relationship buildings that a lot of the community is calling for”. Read the transcript of the briefing here.
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Chief Chuck Lovell: (00:00)
… About the reforms and the advances and just giving the community the service that they really need and expect. We have a great partnership with OSP downtown. They have replaced the federal officers. And we have a long standing history of working closely with Oregon State Police and training with them. And the downtown activity has actually been pretty promising. So we’re really happy for our partnership with Oregon State Police and also Multnomah County Sheriff’s office. And to the officers that have been working, we’re pushing almost 70 straight days of protest here in Portland. Officers are tired, and they keep coming back every night because they love this city. They’re working hard to keep the city safe, protect people and give people the right to exercise their free speech, but also protect property from those who are committed to try to destroy it and to try to do things that are disruptive to the functioning of our beautiful city. So with that, I’ll open it up for questions, but I just wanted to say thanks everyone for being here, and I’m happy to give all the local media folks some accessibility.
Speaker 2: (01:13)
Chief, you have retirements happening this month. Some have been scheduled for awhile. Are there officers who are taking early retirement or are some just saying I’m done and giving you notice?
Chief Chuck Lovell: (01:29)
Well, we’ve had, I want to say that the latest number I heard was about 46 projected retirements, and those are officers who’ve done their 25 years and are now ready to retire. But when you look at that number and that core of officers, you’ve got over 1,000 years of experience leaving the police bureau this month. And those are 46 veteran bodies who are able to work in their investigative assignments or on patrol. And then we have a cadre of officers who haven’t even been to the Academy yet, and we’ve got about 100 I think that are still trainees.
Chief Chuck Lovell: (02:04)
And it takes an officer about two years to really be up and functioning, off probation and able to go out and give service to the public. So I’ve heard, “Hey, you guys have 900 officers. Where are they going?” There’s a lot that goes into that number. Some of those officers are just at the very beginning of their career. We have a lot who are leaving at the end of their career. So I think in the future, we’ll kind of break down what those numbers look like in the more general sense. But yeah, this is going to be a big retirement for us, August.
Speaker 2: (02:33)
You have not seen officers telling you that they’re just exhausted and this isn’t the career for them anymore?
Chief Chuck Lovell: (02:40)
No, I think officers are exhausted, but we don’t have people leaving early for that reason. We have dedicated officers. I mean, if you look at what’s been going on here for the last 70 days, and we have people who show up every night to deal with these tumultuous situations. They come downtown to work or to one of our precincts to work, and they see hateful graffiti, and they still come back every day to give service to the community under what are really tough circumstances. It really affects their wellness and their families. And they love this city so much that they keep coming back and they keep serving. I’m very proud of them. I can’t say enough how proud I am of their resilience and their dedication to Portland.
Chief, you mentioned nightly violence and response times. Can you spell out, do you think the nightly violence is having effects on response times? What does that affect and how does that work for those that don’t know all the details?
Chief Chuck Lovell: (03:35)
Sure. Yeah, I do. And in the very general sense, we have officers assigned to answer 911 calls at precincts, and they have big areas that they cover. Night shift is the smallest shift we have, and we’ll designate mobile field forces to come downtown to assist in the crowd control efforts or at precincts if that’s where the resource is needed. But when we pull those resources to assist with the crowd control, it leaves very few cars in the precinct to answer 911 calls, sometimes just two or three cars. And if we get a shooting or a critical incident there that requires multiple cars, people aren’t getting police service, and that’s the real issue. And I think for us, there’s a prevention piece. When the police are out and able to do proactive work, there’s a prevention piece that I think is hard to quantify, but it’s important. And I think right now that prevention piece is just not as efficient because of all the activity downtown or at the precincts that’s drawn away from our resources.
Do you think there’s a connection to the homicides and shootings, or do you attribute that to the GVRT going away? Can you talk about what you think the cause is of that?
Chief Chuck Lovell: (04:46)
I think that’s probably two fold. I think both of those are probably factors. The Gun Violence Reduction Team did great work. They had relationships with people. They had knowledge of people. They had the ability to collect data. They interfaced with the Office of Violence Prevention, outreach workers, parole and probation. They had a structure that was focused on shootings and on gun violence. So absent that structure that we’re dealing with now, all those people’s jobs got harder. It’s harder for probation and parole. It’s harder for the Office of Violence Prevention. It’s harder for the outreach workers. And I think there’s some deterrent piece there too. Knowing that they’re no longer there, I think it gives people more… I’d say they’re more emboldened maybe to be out with guns. They know there’s not someone watching. There’s no real deterrent there. And I think that’s part of the issue with causing us to see the spike we have in July.
Speaker 2: (05:44)
Is there a chance they’re coming back?
Chief Chuck Lovell: (05:47)
I think so. I hope so. I’m not sure, but I have dedicated some resources from patrol. As a chief of police when you see those numbers, it gives you a knot in your stomach. People are dying in your streets and you’re responsible for the safety of the community. So I’ve dedicated resources from patrol to the detective division where the previous GVRT detectives are now housed to give support for followup to those investigations. It’s that important to me.
Speaker 4: (06:16)
Chief, why do you think those numbers are up in homicides?
Chief Chuck Lovell: (06:20)
Well, I think, like I answered with Nick’s question, I think the absence of the Gun Violence Reduction Team, the limited resources to do proactive stops and the amount of officers that we’re dedicating to crowd control events and really the violent activity that we have to respond to, there’s really less of a deterrent for people. And then when you do have shootings, sometimes you have retaliatory shootings and other things that if you had the GVRT resource, you could maybe try to prevent on the front end.
Speaker 4: (06:52)
Do you think it may be related to the pandemic and economy?
Chief Chuck Lovell: (06:57)
That’s possible too. There’s a lot of forces at play for us right now between the pandemic, people out of work, a lot of people with free time, the economy, the crowd control events, the violence. I think all of those probably play a role, but it’s hard to quantify.
Speaker 5: (07:17)
What is the bureau’s game plan in dealing with the nightly violence or the nightly protests that might involve violence?
Chief Chuck Lovell: (07:28)
Yeah. Our game plan is really to be as de-escalative as possible. We try to not be out where we are a target or visible where people want to provoke a response from us. We respond when people attempt burglaries, arsons, damage to property, things that would harm other people, fights breakout and things of that nature. And our approach is really to respond to criminal activity. Having Oregon State Police here has been very helpful. We’ve gotten help from Multnomah County Sheriff’s office. But we’ve really been focused on using our resources to respond to the criminal activity. And there’ve been some really large peaceful protests where people have come out, they’ve listened and given speeches, they’ve marched to different parts of the city, and it’s really required zero police interaction. And their voices are definitely being heard by us. And we want to get to the conversations, the reforms, the relationship buildings that a lot of the community is calling for.
Speaker 6: (08:31)
The mayor made a big deal when he was talking about his four step plan to get the streets of Portland back, he says getting rid of the feds was the biggest step. And he said or seemed to feel that that would make a big change. Now, we’ve also heard that if the streets of Portland don’t calm back down, the feds say they will come back in. Do you have concerns that the feds will come back? And how, if the feds are gone, do we truly get the streets to calm down?
Chief Chuck Lovell: (09:00)
Yeah, I think the switch with OSP has been helpful, especially downtown at the federal building. I mean, we have a fair amount of federal buildings in Portland that have to be protected. For us, I think it’s really focusing on how do we protect our infrastructure. Some of the focus has shifted from the downtown federal building to our precincts. Last night, we had a bunch of disturbing activity at our Portland Police Association office. So I think it’s really our ability to keep Portlanders safe, one, but also to protect our valuable infrastructure as well. And I think having Oregon State Police here is helpful in that, but we have to figure out a way where we can secure those structures adequately and also at some point really allow the federal government to leave and our local assets to be able to maintain that.
Speaker 6: (09:54)
So the mayor and other federal officials have said it really lies on the shoulders of Portland. I guess the question is how? How do you ask or how do you expect Portlanders to help out getting this small group of agitators that you’re talking about to step down?
Chief Chuck Lovell: (10:12)
Yeah, I think it does rely on Portlanders and I think it’s Portlanders in a general sense, everyone from the person who owns a mom and pop store, to the big business owners, to faith leaders, all the way up to elected officials to really send a strong message that enough is enough. This is not forwarding the goals of things that are going to lead to better outcomes for people of color. This movement is very powerful and I feel like the violence has taken away from it in a really kind of concerning way. But I think it’s really dependent on Portland as a community to really say we’re not going to tolerate this. Businesses are struggling.
Chief Chuck Lovell: (10:53)
There’s so much in our beautiful, vibrant city that has kind of been tainted a little bit by the national reputation that we’ve gotten over the past few weeks too. So I just want to make sure that I say what I can to support the officers that are out there doing the hard work to keep the city safe, but also encourage other people to really have a voice and say this is not what Portland’s about, and this is not what we need right now in our city. We need to really be moving forward together on police reform and a whole bunch of other things that really are societal inequalities that we should be looking at fixing together.
Speaker 6: (11:32)
And you also mentioned just starting to have that conversation going into that next phase, if you will. Tonight, the citizen review accountability meeting is meeting. Do you expect any new changes? Are you anticipating that? Are you concerned about anything that’s coming down the pipe?
Chief Chuck Lovell: (11:46)
I’m always anticipating some changes. In this business, change is a constant. It’s the thing you can count on. But I’m really looking forward to having conversations with them. I’ve met with them and also PSEP and a whole bunch of other community groups. I want to do more of that. I want to hear, build relationships as we do start putting together reforms. It’s in part, I think for me, my internal vision, but also combined with what the community’s saying they need and want. And it’s about coming together, finding that right mix of things that’s going to make it better for the police bureau and the community.
Speaker 7: (12:30)
With the absence of the gun violence reduction team-
Chief Chuck Lovell: (12:33)
Can you speak up a little bit?
Speaker 7: (12:34)
Sorry. So hard with the face mask. With the absence of the Gun Violence Reduction Team, there’s a lot of community outreach that happens and a lot of relationships that are created with that. What kind of approach or what kinds of things are you guys doing to try to do some of that work without having that team?
Chief Chuck Lovell: (12:52)
Yeah, I’ll tell you, it’s tough. Like I spoke about before, having that team structured the way they were was kind of a structure we built to provide support to the community who is doing that work. And that work was taking place for a reason. We had a lot of shootings last year, and that team was working really hard. But I think the relationship piece is what’s so hard to measure. I mean, we deal with folks who are on the victim side of that equation regularly. There’s a lot of relationships with our officers that do that kind of work. There’s a lot of relationships with the community members that do that work. And I think a lot of those stops, and the stops have gotten a lot of attention, but a lot of those stops end in handshakes and conversation, and there’s a real kind of familiarity and people miss it. We hear a lot from people in the community saying, “Hey, we need the Gun Violence Reduction Team back. We need these officers that know our community, that know this issue of gun violence, that we really relied on to help stay safe.”
Speaker 5: (14:01)
Do you have any further information on the truck that went through the crowd last night?
Chief Chuck Lovell: (14:09)
I don’t have anything further. I know that the driver was contacted and interviewed by detectives. I don’t think any charges have been… There’ve been no charges in that case currently. Although, it’s possible there could be some to follow. But that’s all I know about it at this point.
Speaker 9: (14:27)
I was going to ask. The narrative was, “Well, the Gun Violence Reduction Team had to go away because it intentionally or not was racist.” It was profiling people that were black. And it sounds like… Well, do you disagree with that?
Chief Chuck Lovell: (14:42)
I disagree with that, yes. Yeah. I mean, the stop state of the numbers are the numbers, but I think if you look at major cities that do that type work, the numbers are similar. I mean, it’s a hard thing to quantify because if you look at the victim side of that, you’ll notice black people are overrepresented heavily on the victim side too. So when you’re doing that type of work in the community, it’s so hard because you are trying to respond to a societal issue in many ways, and when you do it and you have those numbers, people label you racist. And that’s not the case.
Chief Chuck Lovell: (15:22)
Those officers that do that work, I can tell you, are the most caring people. They get up, leave their house in the middle of the night, go out and investigate these shootings. And they do it because they care about these families. They don’t want to see another family the next night standing in the street with their loved one laying there. So, I would definitely disagree with that. And it’s tough, when you do that work, those are kind of the numbers you have. And it’s the case in a lot of major cities.
Would you like me to share the numbers?
Chief Chuck Lovell: (15:51)
Yeah. We have actually some numbers too that Tina can share also.
Speaker 9: (15:57)
I know you’ve been here a long time. I’ve been here 30 years. I’ve never experienced a summer like this with the protests and especially with the violence. What do you think is going on and why can’t you just arrest a bunch of people and make it stop?
Chief Chuck Lovell: (16:07)
Yeah. Well, you have me beat because I’ve been in Portland almost 20 years and with the police bureau just over 18. But I’ve never seen a summer like this. I mean, when I stepped into this role less than two months ago, it was the pandemic, it was really kind of the start of the George Floyd protest. Huge budget cuts were coming. And at the time, it was like, well, this job is going to be hard. And then you throw in the national press that we’ve gotten and then now the shootings, and it’s very hard. But I think arresting people is a tactic that we use, but we’ve arrested over 400 people I think since these demonstrations have started. One, people don’t stay in jail very long when they get arrested. And two, arrests have to be a deterrent kind of in the near term.
Chief Chuck Lovell: (16:58)
A lot of these cases aren’t going to trial anytime soon also. This is not a situation where you can arrest your way out of it, I don’t think. We’re 70 days into it, and we still have violence taking place almost on a nightly basis. So, I think it’s really going to be a community led effort where people just say enough is enough and we’re tired of it. And we get the violent actors to stop coming out because they feel like, you know what, this is not going to be tolerated by the community.
Speaker 6: (17:28)
You said that you’ve talked to community members and you had that opportunity. Has anything come out of that that surprised you, that maybe you haven’t thought of, or maybe you walked away still thinking about that one thing that they said that you’d be willing to share?
Chief Chuck Lovell: (17:42)
Yeah. I think the overarching thing is a lot of people, the defund, abolish police movement had gotten a fair amount of attention. A lot of the people I talked to, the vast majority, are like, “No, we need police. We need good, fair, just policing.” And they feel like the ability to have that is there. And I think for me, I feel like the things I want to do to bring the police bureau and the community closer together, they need investment, not divestment. I mean, a lot of these things are relationship things, and relationships take time. We can’t form a relationship with anyone if we don’t spend time together. But in order to have that time, we have to have adequate staffing, we have to have the ability for officers to go out and contact people and spend time with them in situations that aren’t immediate emergency critical situations.
Chief Chuck Lovell: (18:34)
And you look at the loss of things like the Youth Services Division and Gun Violence Reduction Team. Those were two of the units that we had that had some of the best relationships with people, and YSD in particular, young people. So, I mean, for me, I was really taken aback by the fact that the community is like, “No, we need you. We just want to make sure that you’re giving us good, just policing.” And for me, I feel like it’s incumbent on me to have a police bureau that knows that the expectation is that they’re here to care about the community first and foremost. And then to have things in place that when people do things that are outside our directives, policies and values, to catch it, and then have mechanisms to hold people in place. And I think that’s kind of the accountability piece that goes along with community trust.
Speaker 6: (19:21)
Do you think you’re in a unique position? You’ve been here in Portland 20 years, you’re a black man, and you’re in the police bureau. Does that put you in a unique spot to help this community?
Chief Chuck Lovell: (19:34)
I think so. I mean, I love this community. I’ve spent the vast majority of my career connected to inner Northeast Portland and the black community. I think it gives me a perspective as a black person where I can say, you know what, there are things about our system that need to change. You look at the numbers and you think, yeah, there are disparities there. What can I do from my perspective and with my experience to bring the police bureau along to kind of fix or help in some of those areas? But I think for me, for sure, being a black police chief at this time in our nation, in our city, gives me a definite unique perspective. But I think in order to really make change, you have to have the ability to connect internally and externally also. And I think that’s really important.
Speaker 2: (20:31)
What was your reaction to the reaction of your op ed piece? The local reaction from faith leaders wasn’t that great. What do you say?
Chief Chuck Lovell: (20:35)
I just wanted to kind of just speak in my voice a little bit. Portland had gotten a lot of national attention, and I felt like in a way there was probably a need for someone to just talk about what’s been really happening in Portland. And I wanted to take that opportunity to talk about the nightly violent piece, but also the peaceful piece, and really just represent our city in a fair manner from a police chief’s point of view. And at the end, I really wanted to be hopeful and just say Portland’s a great city. We have great people. It’s a vibrant city. We want it to return to that. The reputation that we were starting to get nationally was kind of troubling.
Speaker 2: (21:18)
Were you surprised at how they reacted, how local people reacted, to that?
Chief Chuck Lovell: (21:20)
Yes and no. I mean, whenever you give your opinion, I guess you can expect a wide array of responses. So I mean, people are entitled to their opinion and I’m entitled to mine, and I just wanted to share it.
Speaker 4: (21:33)
Chief, with the Gun Violence Reduction Team members, or the former members of that group, are they responding individually to shootings based on where they’re located?
Chief Chuck Lovell: (21:43)
No, the officers have actually gone back to patrol. So they have now a patrol assignment. And it’s very difficult for me as a police chief to tell officers, hey, we’re disbanding a unit. You’re going to go back to patrol. But I still want you to be responsive to this whole other body of work. I mean, that’s very difficult. I think you have to have a dedicated resource that is focused on, this is the most violent and probably the most serious crimes that we have in our city are homicides and shootings. So, I don’t think it’s fair to ask them to do double duty in that respect. But I do want to put the resources I can to this because I do, like I said, think it’s that important.
Speaker 5: (22:30)
Have you shared your concerns with the city commissioners and mayor about the [inaudible 00:22:39]?
Chief Chuck Lovell: (22:43)
Yeah, I think the mayor and I, we talk fairly regularly. We talk about these sorts of things. Some of these decisions are outside of my control. I just try to focus on the resources I have and what I can dedicate to public safety. And I feel like public safety is paramount. People in our community need to live, work, raise their families, play in a safe environment. And that’s where I feel I come in to provide that environment. So, I really try not to focus on things that are outside of my control. I just try to take the resources I have. And right now especially, those resources are precious few. Try to keep my officers motivated, try to keep my detectives motivated to investigate crimes and do their piece of the criminal justice puzzle.
We’re going to take one last question from Nick.
Chief, you mentioned early on that you think people are intentionally trying to provoke these nightly clashes. What do you think the motive is? Why would someone want to provoke a police response?
Chief Chuck Lovell: (23:45)
I think there’s probably several motives. For me, I mean, I think it’s one thing if you have a desire to voice your opinions or speak out against inequities, racial injustice, things of that nature. But if you’re trying to burn buildings, burglarize buildings, throw Molotov cocktails, throw rocks or things to injure officers, to me there’s no message there. To me, that’s just an attempt to either lash out against government or the establishment in general, or to provoke a response from the police.
Why would they want to provoke a response?
Chief Chuck Lovell: (24:23)
I’m not sure. There’s all kinds of agendas out there. But I know for me, I want to address that behavior. I think we have to have a line as law enforcement and public safety that we’re going to respond to criminal activity, we’re going to keep Portlanders safe, we’re going to protect life and property.
I’m going to provide some updates. Thank you, chief.
Chief Chuck Lovell: (24:43)
Okay. Thank you all.
So these are important numbers, so I wanted to make sure I got them right. Was it last week, chief, we met with media and we had some preliminary information from July about shootings, and we just got new information this morning. So for 2020, in July, we had 98 shootings that we’ve verified in the city of Portland. That’s compared to 35 from the year 2019. So, about three times as many in one month’s time. 38 people were shot in the month of July. And of those 38, 34 were males. Of the 38 individuals who were shot in July in the city of Portland, 25 were African American, which is about 66%. It’s over 66%, about two thirds. Four were Hispanic and nine were white.
So, that circles back to what the chief was saying about disparities, especially by race, with gun violence. And so we just wanted to make sure you had the accurate information. Once again, we thank you for your time today. I know that because we haven’t been able to get out and about, some of you may want some B roll of the chief. And so if you want to kind of follow or get some shots, we have a few minutes to be able to do that. If that’s something that you want, we want to offer that as well. But thank you once again.
Tina, do you have the equivalent numbers for 2019 July number of people shot?
I can get the 2019 numbers. It’ll just take a minute. We can get those sent out.
Do you have any hard numbers on the time delays now versus before the [inaudible 00:26:43]?
So on our website, there’s a tableau dashboard that is updated the business day after the fifth of the month, every month on response times. And you can see per kind of priority type too. Yeah. So that is on there. And I think last week we had released some information that had, and was sent out to all the units, about calls and response times that have been down, and there were some graphics on some of that.