East Precinct police commander returns downtown

Learn the parting thoughts of East Precinct Commander Sara Westbrook …

At a Holiday Portland Police Bureau Sunshine Division event, outgoing East Precinct Commander Sara Westbrook spoke about serving at her post.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Shortly after Portland Police Bureau (PPB) East Precinct Commander Sara Westbrook settled into her outer East Portland office about a year ago, she spoke with East Portland News about her aspirations taking on the new position in early 2013. [To read that story, CLICK HERE]

But after PPB Chief Mike Reese announced his retirement, incoming Portland Chief of Police Larry O’Dea announced that Westbrook would be moving back downtown to become Central Precinct Commander.

During a brief break while helping out at a Sunshine Division event, Westbrook talked with us about her stint in outer East Portland.

“I’ve really discovered, and I’m ashamed to admit I did not realize earlier, how under-served much of East Precinct is by all government entities,” Westbrook began.

“There are many roads that are not paved – even west of 82nd Avenue. I’m not trying to ‘throw anyone under the bus’ here – but people in the Mid-County area are under-served. Maybe it’s because there are fewer people who vote – but the area doesn’t seem to get the attention of lawmakers.”

But thanks to the continuing efforts of East Precinct officers and command staff, there have been public safety improvements in the area, Westbrook said.

“I think there is a greater understanding within East Precinct that the needs here are really diverse, and many of those needs are often contingent upon a person’s economic status. We need to be more engaged, and to be building relationships, so people can feel they can have someone to call.”

Although there are areas of gentrification within the precinct, she commented, poverty and drug use – and the crime that goes with it – are prevalent in some neighborhood areas along 82nd Avenue.

“But, what’s cool is that we’ve been out meeting people,” Westbrook went on. “Often we’re the only interaction some people have with anyone ‘in government’, other than fire or emergency medical personnel.

“To be able to point people in crisis, or even in need, in the right direction to get help is good,” Westbrook said. “When we engage like that I think it helps residents here to gain access to services. At the same time, it helps build trust and regard for that what it is we are doing.”

Outgoing East Precinct Commander Sara Westbrook and Officer Mike Gallagher talk with a Sunshine Division volunteer driver.

To those who work at East Precinct, Westbrook had this to say: “I thank everyone here for all they do every day, from cadets and the reserves to our captain, lieutenants, and sergeants and officers. People here care deeply, and they’re out there working to help people who live here every day. Several times officers have actually put their lives on the lines in the year and a half that I’ve been here. They save people’s lives – they are heroes.”

About former East Precinct Gang Enforcement Team Lieutenant Dave Hendrie, who was named her successor, Westbrook said, “He was the captain here with me for about a year, and he really knows East Precinct, and knows everyone here.

“My advice to him is to keep on doing what he was doing here,” Westbrook said. “People appreciate him and trust him already.”

Now Commander of Central Precinct, Sara Westbrook checks her cell phone.

Wrapping up, Westbrook commented, “It is a hard time to be a police officer right now. To have a commander who supports and engages with his police officers and sergeants is key. I am fully confident that Hendrie will do that.”

© 2015 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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