One-on-One with PPB Chief Chuck Lovell

Published: Oct. 6, 2022 at 2:48 PM PDT
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell on Wednesday addressed community concerns about police response and violent crime in rare one-on-one interviews with members of the media, admitting there is still work to do to win back the trust of the community.

Since taking over as chief in the tumultuous year that was 2020, Lovell has seen his police bureau become the target first of community demands for reform, then growing community frustration about rampant violent crime.  Earlier this year, Lovell drew the ire of Portland Mayor and Police Commissioner Ted Wheeler, who responded to Lovell’s assertion that understaffing was to blame for a lack of police response with an expletive during a city council meeting.

“For me, I think that was taken out of context,” said Lovell. “Like, I know the mayor knows that we’re understaffed, but I do get the sentiment that you can’t come off like you’re complaining about staffing all the time or talking about what you don’t have.”

Lovell said he remains honest about the challenges facing the bureau, particularly in terms of staffing, but also said there has been progress.

“I think over time, we’ve kind of stabilized,” said Lovell.  “We’ve gotten to a point now where we’re actually hiring people again.  We had one of our biggest hiring groups I can remember last month when we hired 20 people.”

Lovell said the police bureau has been nimble with the resources it does have, assigning more detectives and officers to investigate gun violence.  Even so, in 2021, the bureau’s Enhanced Community Safety Team wrote just over 100 arrest warrants connected to the 1300 shooting incidents its officers triaged.

“Those are difficult cases to solve,” said Lovell. “A lot of times you’ll show up to a scene and there will be maybe some evidence of gunfire, vehicles hit, casings and things of that nature. You can collect those.  But in order to actually find leads, can you get video?  Do you have witnesses that are willing to help you? All those things are critical to move those cases forward to a position where they can result in warrants or arrests.”

Lovell said he does believe the community’s trust in the police bureau has grown, and he sees positive momentum going forward.

“I think for us here in Portland, I think people have really come around to see the defund the police approach is not the answer and not effective.  And I think people now want to really see investments in the police that make us better,” said Lovell.