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2015 Diamond Alum: Larry O’Dea, Portland Police Bureau Chief
Photos and Story by James Hill
In January, Larry O’Dea was sworn in as Portland’s new police chief, capping a 29-year career with a bureau that has 1,170 employees and a budget of $165 million. He earned an associate degree in criminal justice from PCC and a bachelor’s degree in social science from Portland State University. At PCC, his focus was on criminal justice, psychology, and sociology, with his favorite class taught by retired Portland Police Captain Norm Reiter. After college, Chief O’Dea was hired on as a patrolman in 1986 with Portland Police.
“I believe strongly in PCC as it provided me a gateway into the career that I always wanted,” Chief O’Dea said. “I am confident that had I not attended PCC, I would not be where I am today. I truly was just a regular guy and PCC gave me the knowledge to enter my profession and become very successful. I very much appreciated the real world instructors whom I later had the opportunity to work with professionally in many instances. There is no substitute for having instructors who are still so connected with the profession regardless of the subject matter.”
Besides walking beats, Chief O’Dea has participated in the Street Crimes Unit, Gang Enforcement and Special Emergency Reaction teams and the Traffic Division. Before becoming chief of police, he was assistant chief of operations, overseeing all three precincts – the Traffic, Transit and Youth Services divisions. He also ran the Critical Incident Commander, Crowd Control Incident Commander and the Rapid Response teams. He has been awarded 11 medals and approximately 75 Letters of Commendation during his career, including two Medals of Valor and the Meritorious Service Medal for Valor.
“It is an honor to be selected for this (PCC Diamond Alumni Award),” the Chief added. “I very much appreciate the investment that PCC has made in North and Southeast Portland. When I look at those current facilities, I know that PCC has changed communities, changed lives, and given many regular people like me a chance to be successful.”