Police chief bemoans low staffing levels; boasts about reduced crime

While she wouldn’t comment on police-related cases in the headlines, you’ll get to know Police Chief Rosie Sizer better from reading this article ‚Ķ

After her introduction by Ken Turner, Governmental Affairs chair for East Portland Chamber of Commerce, Portland Police Chief Rosie Sizer describes her long-term goals for the department.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Portland’s Chief of Police, Rosie Sizer, has been in the headlines because of high-profile cases and the Grand Jury investigations ‚Äì but most people know little about her.

At a recent East Portland Chamber of Commerce “Good Morning East Portland” networking meeting, Sizer revealed her background, goals and concerns about public safety in east Portland.

Second-generation cop
Sizer started by telling the group she’d never imagined that, one day, she’d be the Police Chief. “I’m honored to serve in this capacity. I’m a second-generation Portland Police Officer.”

Her father was a police officer for 32 years, retiring as a detective, Sizer continued. “My husband was a Portland Police officer for 29 years, retiring as a deputy chief, then going on to be Multnomah County Sheriff for eight years. I’ve been on the force for 22 years. I have a deep commitment to the officers and the work they do ‚Äì and to the community we all serve.”

Shocked at her appointment
Throughout her career, Sizer said she worked hard at being a good cop. “I’ve never aspired to be Chief of Police. When it happened, I’m sure you saw my face register a degree of shock on the news footage. But I can’t think of a job where I can have more important impact on the place where I live, than to serve in this capacity.”

Relationship-building and leadership development goals
She has two primary long-term goals for her leadership, she said. The first is deepening the relationship between the department and the community, in all of its manifestations. Secondly, creating leaders from within the organization is vitally important.

About relationship-building, Sizer said one of the nicest moments her life was huge turnout of people, from all walks of life, when she was sworn in as Police Chief. “I’ve tried to model relationship-building throughout my career ‚Äì neighborhoods, social services, friends and family. When we build relationships with the community, it helps us provide the most impact on crime we can, with the limited resources we have.”

Talking about developing her staff, Sizer said, “It is hard to be a police officer. We hire good people. We are very selective about hiring our people. Giving the trust the community gives us, it is very important that we hire good people, train them well, and have high expectations for them.

I want to help officers aspire to leadership positions, whatever they may be. It may be a promotion; it may be giving their best in terms of problem-solving efforts and creativity.

When she retires, Sizer said, “it will be these two things that matter most.”

East Portland crime: Meth and ID theft
Sizer was the SE Precinct Commander for about two years before being promoted to chief, she said. “Like in East Precinct, we had a burglary problem. In 2004 we busted over 100 meth labs across Portland. Last year we had fewer than 30.”

Sizer admitted that the methamphetamine supply has been taken over by the Mexican drug cartels. “There is a lot of meth out there. It has been imported from ‘super-labs’ in Mexico and California. Unfortunately there is still a lot of meth in the community that is fueling property crimes.”

The police chief quoted statistics about how the East Precinct Crime Reduction Unit has “cleaned up” outer East Portland. “They make large seizures and arrest many people. It’s had real impact as measured by crime statistics. Across east Portland, Part I crimes, which includes burglaries and other thefts, are down by almost 25%.”

One concern is, she added, is whether or not people are less inclined to report being a victim of crime. “It could be,” Sizer added with a twinkle in her eye, “everything of value in outer East Portland that could be stolen, has been stolen. Actually, these reduced crime numbers are a pretty good indicator of a successful trend.”

Identity theft is a major crime problem, Sizer told the group. “This often starts with a mail theft or a car prowl. Nowadays, it isn’t about stealing your car, but getting access to any ID that may be left in the car. At all costs, safeguard your identity. Keep careful track of your credit and other identifying information.”

Chief Sizer said the bureau has been taking upwards of 500 ID theft complaints a month. “We cannot, to be perfectly honest, begin to investigate all of these complaints. We do have two units here in the eastern precincts staffed with officers who are ferociously working to get ID thieves.”

Chief Sizer tells members of the East Portland Chamber of Commerce that low staffing levels are a real concern across the city.

Low staffing levels a concern
East PDX News asked if precincts in east Portland might see an increase in staffing.

“We are running shifts ‘thin’ throughout the city. This is largely due to officers retiring. About 25 years ago, we hired about 100 officers in a year. Now, they are retiring at the same rate. We’re having trouble keeping up in hiring. We’re trying to recruit. Know anyone? It is a good job.”

The number of officers on patrol, Sizer commented, is decided by using a “staffing formula for officer distribution. We’re pretty confident that it is an appropriate formula. But still, yes, we are very short of officers.”

Answering East Portland public safety questions
EPCC Marketing chair Dan LaGrande asked, “As business people, what can we do to support the police?”

Sizer replied, “On the individual level, really work to reduce the chance you’ll become a victim; a statistic. There are people who can help you by doing a security survey of both your premises and business practices to make sure you’re not vulnerable. There has been a real problem with ‘creepers’ who sneak in when you’re not looking and steal your checks or ID information. Also, you can partner with like-minded people and establish a network in which you can share information.”

In a political sense, Sizer added, it helps when citizens publicly support law enforcement and public safety. “It can be difficult to be in public safety these days. If you, as business people, can lend your support, it really helps. Please find your voice.”

EPCC Member Roy Stanfel asked if “catch and release” of criminals is frustrating.

Sizer replied, “It is very frustrating. It can be demoralizing. Our officers really believe in what they do. But, when they spend blood, sweat, and tears catching a criminal, who is then are released very quickly or not held at all, it is a disincentive.”

She said that officers on patrol help reduce crime. “Most criminals are not ‘long-term thinkers’. They’re not thinking, ‘If I get arrested, I’ll have to do 10 years. And what will I do when I get out?’ One car prowler told us he had a policy to quit and go home if he even just saw an patrol car.”

Portland City Commissioner Dan Saltzman on October 18
Want to learn more about your city, and network with East Portland business people at the same time?

Attend the next “Good Morning East Portland” on October 18 and meet Commissioner Dan Saltzman. The networking starts at 7:30 a.m. at the meeting room in the main building at Cherrywood Village, 1417 SE 107th Ave., behind Adventist Medical Center. The meeting is free.

To learn more, see www.eastportlandchamber.com

¬© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

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