Riding with ‘Cop #1’: An officer reflects on his career – while on patrol, with East Portland News riding along

Why do they call this Portland Police Bureau officer ‘Cop #1’? Read this insightful story and learn what this man feels is driving unrest, on the outer East Portland streets he patrols daily …

Ready to serve the citizens of outer East Portland, Portland Police Bureau’s “Cop #1”, East Precinct Officer Gary Manougian, starts another shift.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
When offered the opportunity to go for a “ride-along” with Portland Police Bureau’s (PPB) most experienced district patrol officer, we didn’t hesitate to set up a date with Officer Gary Manougian.

“Manougian was hired on October 20, 1976, and is the most senior sworn law enforcement officer in the Portland Police Bureau, of all ranks,” the Bureau’s Public Information Officer, Sgt. Peter Simpson, informs us. “The officer behind him, in seniority, was hired in 1985, to give you some perspective.”

About to pull away from PPB’s East Precinct with East Portland News aboard, Manougian was stopped in the driveway by a 16-year-old girl concerned about going home. She said she is having problems with her mother and stepfather, and wanted to get some of her personal items out of the house.

On the way there, Manougian said his first job – before he joined the Bureau – was working in retail sales for Nordstrom’s.

“There are similarities between the retail world and police work,” Manougian began. “Talk to anybody who has had any longevity in retail – or in any of the service industries – they will sometimes say, ‘I’ve met a lot of strange people lately. Is the moon full?’ It seems to be the same here. Police-related activity can get a little strange during cycles of the full moon, it seems.”

Outside the back door of the troubled girl’s residence, Officer Manougian talks with her parent.

At the girl’s residence, Manougian spoke with her exasperated step-dad, who said he didn’t know what to do about the girl’s alleged drinking and “partying”. The officer also spoke with her mom for quite a while.

As he settled the squabble, he counseled the girl. “It’s not like you don’t have a problem. It’s not like you’re about to have a problem. You really need to seek help now, or you’re going to grow up to be an adult with big problems.”

Strives to solve underlying problems
As he pulled away from the house to start patrol in his district – which is primarily west of SE 82nd Avenue, in the Montavilla neighborhood – Manougian said, “I believe the girl’s main problem comes from incidents earlier in her life that now cause her to ‘self medicate’. This particular problem had a much deeper cause. Rather than just coming here and dealing with this ‘tiny piece’ of it of it, I offered information and advice to both the parents and the girl. The idea is to help them get moving into a direction to treat the root cause of the problem.”

Throughout his career, Manougian said, he seen many young people searching for ways to deal with traumatic situations. “What follows is erratic behavior – the beginnings of substance to use, alcoholism etc. Although you can try to treat the alcoholism, without treating the root cause it’s not going to be nearly as successful. Try to find the root cause, and address it – that usually makes it a much easier task to treat the symptoms of alcohol or substance abuse.”

It’s a good thing that Crisis Intervention Techniques training is now required of all officers, Manougian reflected. “It helps officers to be more aware of, and to know better how to deal with, people who are having mental crisis.

“I learned early-on that we had to be able to deal with all sorts of people,” Manougian continued. “It’s not important to be able to say what the diagnosis is – be it PTSD or bipolar. It is important to recognize that there may be other issues than what may have brought the officer in contact with the subject. And, this helps us better deal with and communicate with the individual at that time.”

On a call, Manougian takes down information about a crime given him by the victim.

Manougian deftly navigated narrow streets in the Portland Police cruiser, avoiding the unpaved roads in his district, keeping his eye out for out-of-the-ordinary behavior.

“What led me to become a police officer? Good question. I like the freedom of not being in an office, or behind the sales counter in a store.  At the police officer level, you have quite a bit of leeway and freedom to creatively address a wide variety of situations.

“This is an excellent job to study people, and learn how people think and work. You’re not right all the time; nobody is. When we see reactions of a certain kind, in different circumstances, we can file that away and use that information to be able to predict behavior in the future.”

> In Part Two of this story, next week – read how we were there as a crime was reported – and the suspect apprehended, by Portland’s “Cop #1”!

© 2011 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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