Acting Police Chief Rosie Sizer arrived in WW's office last week without an entourage, a move basically unheard-of among the public figures who submit to our gauntlet of questioning.
Mayor Tom Potter appointed Sizer two months ago to fill in during the investigation into sexual harassment charges against Chief Derrick Foxworth, who is now on paid leave while awaiting Potter's decision about his fate. In that short time since the mayor moved her to acting chief from Southeast Precinct commander, Sizer has already made a few ballsy moves, like demoting several of Foxworth's top staff.
During the hour-long interview with WW, the 47-year-old Sizer excused herself from a few touchy subjects, like what's been lost by Portland pulling out of the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force, and mused at one point whether to give a "politic" answer.
But for the most part, the 21-year Portland Police veteran offered thoughtful, non-politic responses. She says she embraces a spirit of openness in the Police Bureau and wants the rank-and-file to feel comfortable talking to the press, even if they occasionally say the wrong thing. If she stays on as chief, we'll believe Sizer's commitment when we see it...but at least there's hope.
WW: Do you expect the mayor to talk to you before he makes his decision public about Foxworth?
Rosie Sizer: I assume there will be some communication before he announces the decision. But as to when the decision is going to be made and what the decision is going to be, I'm completely out of
How hard has it been to operate in this climate of uncertainty the past two months?
Things have been kind of slow in being able to make appointments. So if I remain, it would be nice to have a staff kind of going in one direction. I was talking to an officer yesterday, and she was saying, "Isn't it hard, because in a sense haven't you been doing a two-month interview, and doesn't that make you feel uncomfortable?" And it hasn't been. I never thought I'd be chief. My sense of self-worth isn't wrapped up in being chief. It's an interesting episode in what I think has been a really fascinating career. The answer to your question is "Yes, to a degree," but perhaps not to the degree your question suggests.
If Foxworth comes back as chief, isn't it going to be incredibly awkward given the changes you've made?
Well, it would make it different for him [laughs]. He could put me back in Southeast Precinct or anywhere he wants. I don't think the changes have been that monumental. They're certainly reversible, if he cared to reverse them. Whether he comes back as chief or something else, it's going to be somewhat awkward, partly because of the investigation and the public nature, and partly because of me. But it might be more of the former rather than the latter.
What keeps you up nights when you think about the next big issue if you stay on as chief?
Terrorism, natural disaster would be catastrophic and very difficult, and would really strain our resources, kind of shatter the sense this community has of itself. We got a little taste after the anthrax attacks, and I can remember getting a call on the radio in Central Precinct of somebody who called 911 to report a Middle Eastern-looking man putting something in a garbage can at, like, 3rd and Main. And it's like, "Yeah?"
If the mayor's decision is for Foxworth not to return as chief, do you want the job?
Um, yeah, I think so. In retrospect, I thought it was smart the mayor gave me about an hour, an hour and a half, to make a decision. Given too much time, it would have been easy to say, "You know, that's a pretty risky job." But the fact that there wasn't much time was good for me. I have been sufficiently stimulated and fascinated in the job that I am interested in continuing.
You say "I think so." What is the nagging thing that's keeping you from saying "absolutely"?
It's the challenge of doing a job that is very high-profile and still having a life in balance. I don't want to so over-identify with the job that the rest of my life is out of balance. But so far I've been able to keep it in balance. Sizer is married to former Multnomah County Sheriff Dan Noelle.
Among the many duties Sizer had as a street cop was working as a prostitution decoy.
Portland's first female police chief, Penny Harrington, lasted only 16 months on the job before resigning, prompting then-Mayor Bud Clark to tell her, "Tits up!"