Former Portland Police Chief Charles Moose Dies at 68

Moose, Portland’s first Black chief, led the Portland Police Bureau from 1993 to 1999.

Former Portland Police Bureau Chief Charles Moose has died at age 68.

Moose’s wife, Sandy, reported her husband’s death Thanskgiving night, telling friends on Facebook that Moose died while he watched a televised football game. The Washington Post confirmed Moose’s death today and provided a statement from the agency where he earned his greatest fame, the Montgomery County (Md.) Police Department.

“He was a great leader and led our department through the D.C. Sniper investigation, one of the most difficult crime sprees in our country’s history,” the department said in the statement to the Post. “We send condolences to his wife Sandy and all of his family and friends.”

Moose, a North Carolina native, led the Portland Police Bureau from 1993 to 1999, the first Black man to hold that job. He had hoped to go to law school but after being recruited by PPB in his early 20s, he rose steadily through the bureau. A strong proponent of community policing, he wrote his Ph.D. thesis on the topic at Portland State University.

In 1999, Moose left Portland for the top police job in Montgomery County, Maryland’s largest and most affluent county, located adjacent to Washington, D.C.

In 2002, he became a regular face on national television and in the press as a sniper terrorized his county and nearby areas, killing 10 and wounding three more in a series of seemingly random attacks attributed to the “Beltway Sniper.” Moose’s steady leadership under pressure earned him accolades, and after 23 days, his officers arrested the sniper John Allen Muhammad and a teen-aged helper Lee Boyd Malvo.

Moose later signed book and movie deals about the killing spree. The Montgomery County Board of Supervisors decided those deals represented a violation of ethics rules that prohibit public employees from using their positions for private gain, so Moose gave up his job.

Today, Montgomery County Executive Marc Erlich paid tribute to Moose’s leadership during the sniper episode in a statement. “For 23 days, Chief Moose provided a calming presence in the midst of the terror and fear that consumed our county and the Washington region and was nationally recognized for his efforts,” Erlich said. “We are forever grateful for his contributions to public safety during his tenure.”

Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell added his thoughts in a statement. “I am deeply saddened by the death of Chief Charles Moose last night,” Lovell said. “I feel connected to Chief Moose as he was the first African American chief, a champion of community policing and led the bureau during challenging times.”