The Rev. Roy Cole, a gay activist, is going to miss Police Chief Charles A. Moose. He's going to miss him, even though he said Moose exploded in anger when gay leaders used their regular monthly meeting with police brass to question whether cops unfairly raided a gay club.
"He shouted at us," Cole said. "I don't think he used profanity, but the chief was not in control of his temper." Still, Cole said, "I always felt the police department was an ally to our community, and I think Chief Moose definitely can be credited with that."
The man who will be sworn in today as Montgomery County's police chief leaves behind a city that came to accept him as a complicated brew of abrasiveness and dedication, bluntness and compassion.
Get ready, Portlanders say, for a chief who routinely ticks people off, alienates some of his own staff and draws attention for a short fuse. But he also is remembered for listening to community gripes and answering them, making his department open and accessible and getting things done.
If his profile is as high in Montgomery as it was in Portland, Moose will stand in marked contrast to Carol A. Mehrling, who retired from four years as chief of the county police after rarely surfacing in the public spotlight.
"He's a strong person," said Portland Latino activist Carolina Hess. "He's controversial. I think that position always is. But he's got integrity and convictions. Once he considered what the community wanted, changes came. Everything comes from the top, and he made things happen."
Perhaps nothing better symbolizes the Moose era here than the story of his house.
In 1993, he and his wife, Sandy, bought a large, two-story home with a wide front porch in one of Portland's most gang-ridden, drug-infested neighborhoods. It was tangible proof, he said, of his commitment to linking the police with communities who need them most but distrust them most. He urged his officers and middle-class citizens, particularly African American professionals, to move there, too.
But the gesture went sour last August, when some citizens picketed the chief's house to protest the way police had broken up another demonstration. That prompted Moose to bitterly proclaim to the city council that perhaps buying property in the neighborhood had been a "joke" and a mistake and that he would no longer encourage anyone to follow his lead.
"Black people and white liberals came out of the trenches," said Margaret Carter, a former state representative for the area, who said she liked Moose's candor.
`In for a Rude Awakening'
After six years at the helm of a 1,000-member department, Moose was not always beloved by his troops and the 500,000 citizens they serve, but he seems to have maintained their respect. That ability to bridge constituencies through blunt talk could prove crucial in Montgomery County. Three years of public criticism, particularly from the NAACP, have left some Montgomery officers frustrated and defensive and have led to an ongoing civil rights review by the U.S. Department of Justice.
"It sounds like he's walking into a hornet's nest," said Bernie Foster, publisher of Northeast Portland's African American weekly newspaper. "But he likes a challenge. I think some officers there are in for a rude awakening. He's going to make a few heads roll, I can guarantee you that. . . . If Montgomery hired him to clean up its image, he has the vision and ability to do it."
Moose made $104,000 as Portland police chief last year and will be paid a $125,000 salary in Montgomery.
In coming to Montgomery, Moose is trading a predominantly white, rapidly growing city in the Pacific Northwest for an increasingly ethnically diverse East Coast suburb that averages half as many homicides each year. He also will have to work with less. Montgomery County has about the same number of police officers as Portland but has 300,000 more people. And its computers and radio systems are fossils compared with Portland's.
It was Moose's predecessor in Portland, Tom Potter, who made the city a national model for community policing, the idea that officers should work directly with residents and businesses to prevent and solve crimes. But Moose, 45, the first black police chief in Portland, is widely credited with solidifying those ties.
"Moose galvanized people in the black community, people who'd never dealt with the police," said Foster, the African American newspaper publisher. "He got them to meetings. He met with people who didn't like him, but he was accessible."
Hess, the Latino activist, praised Moose for agreeing to require all new Portland officers to take a one-week intensive Spanish class. He also invited community leaders along on drug stings in Hispanic neighborhoods so they could determine whether officers were unfairly targeting people.
Frequently, Moose called public meetings to stay in touch. He entered into written "partnership agreements" with community groups, including Latinos and local television news stations, to spell out how police and each group would deal with one other. He established a citizens advisory council for each large minority group. Every month, members of each group would meet with a top commander to voice concerns before resentment set in.
Volunteers from those groups received training in crisis counseling so they can be contacted after serious incidents to serve as victim advocates. If a police officer shoots a black resident, for example, a police supervisor is expected to use a "phone tree" to notify local leaders before rumors can spread or they hear about it on the news.
Moose hired a polling firm to regularly survey residents and police employees to give top supervisors a sense of where citizens felt most and least safe and how his department was doing. Local leaders said he was generous in sharing his pager number.
Keeping His Door Open
"At least the majority of the Portland community seems satisfied," Moose said, reflecting on his tenure last week from his 15th-floor glass office decorated with a collection of elephant figures and a home-baked goodbye cake from his staff outside. "I think we're a little more open, a little more responsive, and that feels pretty good."
Portlanders said that Moose, indeed, almost always responded to requests to talk, and he often accepted their complaints as valid. Then again, sometimes they had to face a vein-bulging chief.
Moose said yesterday that he does not recall the meeting with Cole and other gay activists, but he said that people sometimes "confuse passion with a temper."
However, when he opened his personnel file to reporters in 1997, they found that he had been disciplined for four outbursts and was required to undergo a psychological exam in 1988, according to the Oregonian newspaper. The exam found that Moose was prone to "considerable assertive behavior" but was not generally aggressive, the paper reported.
Moose said yesterday that he did indeed undergo a psychological exam and counseling. But he said that, although he was investigated four times for his anger, he was only disciplined once -- with a letter of reprimand in 1991 for using profanity when he said a city employee suggested he looked like a gang member. In that and the other three incidents, Moose said, he believed he was the target of offensive and racist comments.
Sgt. Bill Macdonald, a Portland detective who was Moose's patrol partner in the 1970s, said Moose rarely, if ever, mentioned what it was like to be one of only a handful of black officers on a force of 750. Nor, during three years of riding together, did Moose share what he thought of the racial slurs they sometimes heard while patrolling the city's poor, predominantly black neighborhoods.
"Race wasn't a huge issue in our car," Macdonald said.
Still, Moose said he knew that some colleagues grumbled out of his earshot that during his 24 years in Portland, he rose through the ranks because of affirmative action. He also hasn't forgotten what happened two months ago at a Montgomery news conference, when County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D) introduced him as the new police chief after a highly secretive national search.
Reporters did not ask about his doctorate in community policing or his department's national awards. They wanted to know whether Moose believed speculation that Duncan had felt pressured to hire a black chief, given criticism of Montgomery police relations from the county's minorities.
"That question was asked in four different ways," Moose said, clearly irked. "I was telling people the other day, I may have been 3,000 miles away [from Portland], but it didn't matter. It was the same question."
Above All, a `Cop's Cop'
Within the Portland Police Bureau, some officers found Moose as intimidating as members of the public often did. He drew public criticism for reportedly blowing up at an officer who propped his feet up on a table during a break in a training class.
Moose said the officer did not have his feet up but was reading a newspaper while Moose was teaching a class, and "I told him if he was ever giving a presentation, I wouldn't insult him by reading the paper."
Union officials also criticized him publicly for telling a top commander he was being demoted -- in front of three others who were being promoted. Moose said he made the announcement with all in the same room so they could hear it from him personally before the news leaked out piecemeal.
Police Lt. Bob Baxter recalled feeling embarrassed for the department when Moose drew media attention for having to apologize for reportedly yelling at a student in a criminology class that Moose taught at Portland State University.
"He has a temper that when it rolls, it really rolls," Baxter said. "Sometimes you shake your head and say, `A person in that position needs to be more refined.' "
But Baxter and other officers praised Moose for remaining a "cop's cop," wearing the blue uniform and bulletproof vest every day, even to his desk job, because that's what he required of his troops. At funerals of two officers killed in the line of duty, he wept openly.
He lobbied Mayor Vera Katz to respond to officers' fears that their shotguns and 9mm Glock pistols left them outgunned on the streets. They also needed rifles, Moose told her. Katz, a devout liberal who also serves as police commissioner, agreed.
In Montgomery, Moose said, he wants to be more open to listening and spend more time with the rank and file. He said he wants to begin by boosting the "confidence" of Montgomery officers who have felt "under siege" by the allegations of unfairness.
He said he needs time to size up the county's police-community relations, though he said he already has detected feelings of "some isolation" between the two.
He and his wife are still home-shopping in Montgomery. Their two grown sons will remain in Portland, where they attend college and law school. Moose said he is again considering living in an area where he is "needed," perhaps in one of the county's struggling neighborhoods.