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Woman Police Chief Quits in Portland

June 02, 1986|Associated Press

PORTLAND, Ore. — Penny Harrington, the first woman to lead a U.S. big city police department, said today she has resigned after serving 16 months as Portland's police chief.

Harrington, 44, told KGW-TV that she submitted her written resignation to Mayor Bud Clark on Sunday afternoon.

Harrington said she resigned because of the findings of a commission that has investigated her reorganization of the Police Bureau, as well as the relationship she and her husband, police Officer Gary Harrington, had with a suspect in a drug-trafficking case.

She said she was "disappointed in the whole mess from beginning to end. I always realized I'd have to pay the consequences for doing what's right." She called the resignation a victory for the police union, which had opposed her management of the bureau.

Harrington had filed more than 40 complaints of sex discrimination during her years on the force before becoming chief. A movie of her life is in the works and last year she was named one of Ms. magazine's women of the year.

The controversy began March 25 when Harrington admitted that her officer husband had spoken to the drug suspect, Robert Lee, owner of a Chinese restaurant. She said her husband was unaware of the investigation when he saw Lee speaking to a known drug dealer and advised him he shouldn't be talking to the man.

Later, Harrington admitted she had spoken to Lee after he shot and wounded a transient on Feb. 11. Among other things, Harrington said she told Lee he probably wouldn't be indicted. A grand jury later declined to indict him.

Earlier under Harrington, the Police Bureau was criticized for the death of a black man at the hands of two white officers and the subsequent sale by two officers of T-shirts saying, "Don't choke 'em, smoke 'em."

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