Veteran Portland crime-preventer Teri Poppino retires

Learn what she says she’ll remember most about her decades of being an outer East Portland ‘Crime Prevention Coordinator’ …

In January, 2005, Crime Prevention Coordinator Teri Poppino tells outer East Portland neighbors how help keep children safe from sexual abuse.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Celebrating the conclusion of her 39-year career in public safety, the friends and co-workers of Teri Poppino, a longtime “Crime Prevention Coordinator” with the then-named “Portland Office of Neighborhood Involvement”, came to celebrate with her at the Penumbra Kelly Building – next to the former location of the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) Southeast Precinct building on November 26.

“To be clear, the Bureau has been renamed the ‘Office of Community & Civic Life’, and our program is now called the ‘Community Safety Program’ – but we still work to help reduce crime, and increase safety,” Poppino pointed out.

Working into the evening in her office in 2010, Teri Poppino answers emails.

Her long career started as she was looking for a way to finish up her elective hours needed to graduate from Oregon State University, and so began an internship through Portland State University (PSU) to obtain the needed scholastic hours.

“Through the PSU Women Studies Department, I was able do a ‘practicum’ with the PPB’s program, then called ‘Rape Prevention’ – and which continues today as ‘Women’s Strength’ – and I started in September or October of 1980,” Poppino told East Portland News. “Soon after, my supervisor left on maternity leave, and I was hired under contract by the PPB to operate that program on December 1, 1980. And, as they say, the rest is history!”

Tabling at a 2011 outer East Portland ‘Fix-it Fair’ with Crime Prevention Specialist Rosanne Lee (retired in 2015), Teri Poppino demonstrates her knack for getting people to smile.

Outer East Portland memories
“When I moved to Crime Prevention, I began working out of the East Portland Neighborhood Office (EPNO), which was then located inside PPB’s East Precinct building – crammed into a small office suite on SE 106th Avenue, with EPNO Director Richard Bixby,” Poppino recalled.

“I love the people of outer East Portland, because they speak plainly and ‘call things like they are’, instead of beating around the bush! People bought homes in what was then unincorporated Multnomah County, because they didn’t want to live in the City of Portland.

At the retirement party of mentor and coworker, Katherine Anderson in October of 2014, the honoree shared a laugh with Teri Poppino.

“Many of the residents in the area we served had been gerrymandered into the city, having been promised free streetlights, sidewalks, paved streets, and sewers – only later to be told that the city ‘just couldn’t afford it’ – so these residents had a deep skepticism of anyone from Portland’s city government.

“So I had to prove myself; and, I really enjoyed the people and the relationships I developed among outer East Portland residents,” she said. “And, I’m thankful to [now-retired Crime Prevention Specialists] Rosanne Lee and then Catherine Anderson who ‘showed me the ropes’ of this work; we all have tremendous respect for our outer East Portland people.”

At her November retirement party, Teri Poppino snaps photo memories of friends.

Loved ‘National Night Out’
Asked what her favorite thing was about her job, Poppino didn’t hesitate in replying: “I loved National Night Out; it was great to see groups, large and small, so happily celebrating together.

“It was great to see people celebrating their neighborhoods; this showed true neighbors coming together, regardless of their ethnic backgrounds – it really helped build a sense of community,” she observed.

Teri Poppino is bade farewell upon her retirement by Portland Police Bureau East Precinct Neighborhood Response Team Officer Rob Brown.

Enjoyed ‘connecting people’
Looking back on her decades of service, Poppino mused, “I look at the neighborhoods through the eyes of the people who live there, not as a jurisdiction to which I’m assigned – and I do my best to help them by giving them the kind of assistance that they want and need.

“And, I’ve always tried to speak the truth – sometimes there have been ‘repercussions’ from speaking a little more frankly than might be advisable! – but, in doing so, I feel I have gained genuine friendships with the people I’ve served,” Poppino remarked.

She summed up the most important thing she’d learned, in one word: “accountability”. “That means that when I say I’ll do something, those I serve can count on it being done,” Poppino said. “A main part of my job has been ‘being the face of the city bureaucracy’ who will follow through for them.”

Teri Poppino receives a retirement memento from her mentor, retired Crime Prevention Coordinator Katherine Anderson.

Already misses ‘the people’
Although she’ll now get to sleep in, and not be going to meetings until late at night, Poppino said she’ll sorely miss the people she served, and her co-workers.

“I will miss these people, and I’m going to grieve over this. It’s really been… [she fights back tears] a blessed life,” Poppino smiled. “I know this sounds corny, but I landed where I did not expect to be, and had a wonderful career for 39 years – working with people, helping them, letting them see that they do have some control over their situations.

“And, when they pull themselves up by their own bootstraps it’s so rewarding,” concluded Poppino.

Teri Poppino hands-off responsibilities to the Office of Community & Civic Life’s incoming Community Safety Program Coordinator Sarah Berkemeier.

© 2020 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™


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