In Portland politics, politeness rules—the phrase "Portland nice" has come to characterize the artificial manner in which public officials often deal with unpleasant truths.
Today's City Hall press conference in which Mayor Charlie Hales announced the departure of Police Chief Larry O'Dea amid an investigation into a bizarre off-duty shooting incident is a case in point.
Hales blasted the media for exposing the cover-up O'Dea orchestrated: telling a Harney County Sheriff's deputy that a friend accidentally shot himself, then the friend to apologize for accidentally shooting him—then neglecting to tell his boss, Hales what happened.
Rather than addressing the discrepancy, the mayor pronounced himself "disappointed in trial by media," and spent much of an hour-long press conference singing O'Dea's praises. "Larry had worked really hard at representing the 'new Portland," he said, according to a tweet from KGW's Rachael Rafanelli. "I want to thank him for his decades of service to the city."
Of course, it's appropriate for the mayor to thank O'Dea for his 30 years of service but that's not the point.
In a statement, Portland Police Association President Daryl Turner gave a more candid assessment of the effect on the bureau of having its chief caught in apparent lie about a gun incident.
“A dark cloud has been lifted from over the Portland Police Bureau with the much needed departure of Larry O’Dea and arrival of Mike Marshman as Interim Chief of Police. The rank and file who patrol our streets, investigate crimes, and build relationships in the community can breathe a sigh of relief. For the past few weeks, we have watched as the Bureau suffered under Larry O’Dea’s lack of leadership and ownership of his actions. During a time where staffing has dramatically decreased to an all-time low and morale is as bad as it gets, we needed a police chief to lead us with strength and integrity. Larry O’Dea was not that person,” Turner wrote. “We are at a critical crossroad. Although we’re still angry and in disbelief by the deep wounds inflicted on our organization by the outgoing chief, we are optimistic that we can work collaboratively with Chief Marshman to rebuild this Police Bureau. It will take hard work; our rank-and-file members—and now Chief Marshman—are up to the task.”