Six months after she entered the role, Chief Jami Resch of the Portland Police Bureau announced during a news conference Monday she is stepping down. Resch will be replaced by Lt. Chuck Lovell, who is black.
Resch's decision comes during the second week of Portland protests against police brutality, during which officers have been criticized for using riot control agents such as tear gas, flash-bang grenades, batons and potentially deafening sonic devices.
"Over the last 10 days, I've watched our city. I've listened. I hear you. We have asked our community time and time again, what do we need to do? And each time they have said, show us change," Resch said during the press conference. "What PPB has not done publicly is stand up and say, we will be the start of the change, and take a step towards that change."
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said during the press conference that Resch approached him "midday yesterday" about stepping down, and that he then consulted city commissioners, law enforcement and community leaders.
"I have asked Chuck Lovell to step into the role as chief of the Police Bureau," Resch said. "He's the exact right person at the exact right moment."
Lovell will become the fourth black police chief in Portland history.
Lovell, who was first hired by the bureau in 2002, worked as former police chief Danielle Outlaw's executive assistant, according to The Oregonian. During Resch's tenure, he led the Community Services Division, which oversaw the behavioral health unit.
"To say this was unexpected would be an understatement," Lovell said during the press conference. "This is going to be hard, I don't have any illusions about that.…I told Chief Resch I would do anything to help."
African American leaders celebrated the decision.
"This is historic," said Antoinette Edwards, who retired in July after serving 10 years as director of the city's Office of Youth Violence Prevention. "When he called me, I said, 'You are worthy and you can do this.'"
Ronnie Herndon, executive director of Albina Head Start, recounted the assistance Lovell had given his organization.
"We needed help in addressing parents who didn't have permission to be around their children," Herndon recalled. "He stepped in and made the calls. He's a person who not only cares, he acts. He was acting for the children this city and this country pay very little attention to."
"There are going to be some stormy days, but we'll be right there with you," Herndon added.
Self-Enhancement Inc. executive director Tony Hopson hailed Lovell's promotion but also paid tribute to Resch, who will remain with the bureau in a yet-to-be determined position
"We have an outgoing chief who did something that is unprecedented," Hopson said. "To step aside is virtually unheard of. This wasn't the mayor's decision. It was her decision to be that selfless. To see that this change is in the best interest of the community."
Clarification: This item originally said Resch resigned but omitted the fact she's staying with the bureau in a new capacity.