In an Unusual Email, Police Chief Chuck Lovell Told His Troops to Stop Badmouthing DA Mike Schmidt and the City of Portland

“This undermines our relationship with criminal justice partners.”

SUBJECT: Please take a minute to read

FROM: Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell

TO: All Bureau

DATE: May 4, 2023

In May, Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell distributed an all-office memo, recently obtained by WW and first reported by The Oregonian, asking his officers to stop blaming prosecutors for the lack of “police action.”

Facing public outrage over slow response times and increased crime, cops have publicly pointed fingers at the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office, saying conditions on the street are the result of prosecutors’ reluctance to press charges.

That, Lovell said in the May 4 memo, “is completely unacceptable.”

“This undermines our relationship with criminal justice partners,” he explained, “and sends the message to the community that the system is unresponsive to their needs.”

Here’s three takeaways from Lovell’s latest effort to burnish the bureau’s image:

Portlanders are “disheartened” by police excuses.

Lovell says he often receives complaints from the community about police passing the buck. “Officers are telling complainants that there is absolutely nothing they can do for them, or that the problem is the result of someone else’s decisions,” Lovell writes.

Blame policy, not prosecutors.

Lovell acknowledges that 911 callers are often outraged when police arrive hours later. “It is completely appropriate to explain the circumstances surrounding why a response might be delayed,” Lovell says.

Offering certain explanations, he says, is OK: “I also have no issues with officers explaining why they cannot take a suspect to jail, conduct a camp cleanup, or similar information sharing.”

Small gestures go a long way.

Cops need to think about public perception, Lovell explains. “Even the smallest gesture, such as documenting their concerns on a police report for future reference, can go a long way,” he writes. “It helps them to feel heard and every small effort can make a difference in how people view us.”

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