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Penny Harrington, Portland’s first female police chief, has died

Penny Harrington, the first woman to become chief of the Portland Police Bureau
Penny Harrington, the first woman to become chief of the Portland Police Bureau

Former Portland Police Bureau Chief Penny Harrington has died.

She was the first female detective, sergeant, lieutenant and captain in the bureau. And in 1985, she became the first woman ever to head the bureau. In fact, she was the first female police chief for any major police force in the country.

Harrington went on from there to co-found the National Center for Women and Policing, where she inspired and advocated for women in law enforcement for decades.

She joined OPB on “Think Out Loud” in June 2017, when Portland police were looking for a new chief.

She said a good police chief always answers first and foremost to the community.

”Who sets the priorities? Is it the community? Is it the mayor? Is it the police chief? I believe it has to come from the community.”

She says as chief, she pioneered the policy of neighborhood policing in Portland.

Harrington died Wednesday at her home in Morro Bay, California. She was 79 years old.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct Harrington’s age at the time of her death. OPB regrets the error.

Copyright 2021 Oregon Public Broadcasting