East Precinct Commander reflects on law enforcement challenges

After having been on the job for a few months, learn the views of Commander Tashia Hager about policing in outer East Portland …

Ready to tour the area is Portland Police Bureau East Precinct Commander Tashia Hager.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Having been named the Portland Police Bureau Commander for East Precinct a few months ago, Tashia Hager has thought about how her experiences of being a cop for 25 years has helped prepare her for this assignment.

While touring several of the neighborhoods outer East Portland on a late summer afternoon, Commander Hager shared her thoughts on law enforcement with East Portland News as we rode along.

“I grew up in Stayton, and I’ve been interested in helping protect communities for a long time. I started out as a Police Cadet when I was 16,” Hager began.

“Originally I thought I’d be in law enforcement in some type of federal job, but it didn’t turn out that way; I kept working for a local police department instead,” Hager recalled. “I would say, for me, it was always like ‘a calling’; I’ve never considered doing anything else but this.”

Hager worked for 13 years as a patrol officer with the Portland Police Bureau before considering any promotions; then, she spent six years as a Sergeant before being promoted to Lieutenant – serving for four or five years in East Precinct – before becoming a Captain, and then relatively quickly being promoted to the rank of Commander this spring.

But, she didn’t study law enforcement in college. “My Bachelors degree is actually in psychology, and my minor is in business; but, I took every law enforcement class that was available.”

Every day, officers patrolling their districts are challenged by those with mental health issues, Commander Hager told us.

Mental health challenges increase
Asked if having an education in psychology is helpful as to her a cop, Hager responded, “Today, officers are called, more and more, to interact with people exhibiting psychological difficulties – actually, more than they are to respond to individuals committing crimes.

“When I started out in my career, it would be 95% ‘crime’ calls to 5% ‘disturbance’ calls,” she said. “I don’t know that I want to put a percentage on [such a ratio today]; but, during a good percentage of our calls, officers must deal with someone who has an altered mental state – whether that’s mental health, or drugs and alcohol – it’s often kind of hard to determine.”

Crime impacts to outer East Portland
“A unique thing is about East Precinct is that we most likely have the most diverse population of people [in the city]; many here are struggling, economically,” Hager reflected.

“The interesting thing about Portland is that [crime related issues are] not necessarily about whole neighborhoods, but more often, are just street-by-street.

“All it takes is one residence from which drugs are being sold, or which is operating like a flophouse, to bring issues to that area of the neighborhood; and every street in East Precinct has potential for this happening,” Hager said.

Commander Hager looks in on activity in the Hazelwood neighborhood, at Gateway Discovery Park.

The “houseless” continue to be a challenge
“One of the things is really impacting Portland as a community is our ‘houseless’ community,” Hager commented. “We haven’t well-addressed houselessness, which is really a symptom of a multitude of other kinds of problems [which includes] mental health, alcohol and drug addiction, and economic disparity.

“And, some houseless people are service-resistant, and do not want to get help,” Hager added.

The Commander said she hopes the newly-opened Laurelwood Center in the Foster-Powell neighborhood will be successful in the community.

“Crime along the Springwater Corridor Trail is due to the criminal element that exists in that community – like in any community – those who commit crimes,” Hager remarked. “Honestly, and legitimately so, crimes along the trail do have an impact on people’s perception of safety. As crime picks up, we establish more of a police presence, to help make it safer.”

Understaffing a challenge
“The problem we’re having right now is that we’re severely understaffed; so, while we’re trying to be ‘all things to all people’, with our staffing shortage it’s a challenge – the priority is to make sure that we’re available to answer 911 radio calls,” explained Hager.

Currently, East Precinct is running about 25 to 30 officers short of what would normally be considered fully staffed, she told us as we continued the ride-along.

Seen here, at a recent “Shop with a Cop” event, Commander Hager talks with a member of her staff.

“Looking back over my 25-year career, the best part is that I have not been bored!” Hager acknowledged. “No two days are alike; while many calls are similar, this job is full of surprises, every day.

“But above that, I like knowing that I am having a positive impact on the community,” Hager said. “Yes, the most satisfying thing for me is knowing that I have had a positive impact.”

You can contact East Precinct Commander Tashia Hager at (503) 823-4800, or via email at Tashia.Hager@portlandoregon.gov.

© 2019 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™


Comments are closed.

© 2005-2024 David F. Ashton East PDX News™. All Rights Reserved.