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Gresham Police Chief Retires For 2nd Time In 8 Months

GRESHAM, Ore. — The City of Gresham is looking for a new police chief after Robin Sells retired effective Friday.  This was the second time in eight months that she quit.  Sells revoked her retirement last summer.

An independent investigation released earlier this month found that she undermined a colleague on implementing police reform that was passed by the city council.

Gresham Deputy City Manager Corey Falls filed a formal complaint against Sells and the former city manager alleging violations of the city’s policies on harassment, discrimination and retaliation.  Sells filed complaints in return, which were unfounded.  The city hired Barran Liebman LLP to investigate.  Their report says Falls’ claims were substantiated and Sells’ claims were not.

“Mr. Falls was undermined, passively and actively, by individuals within the Police Department and by Chief Sells who failed to adhere to the chain of command and who permitted a culture of disrespect,” Barran wrote in the report.

In her resignation letter, Sells said quote: “Let me be clear, I am not resigning voluntarily, but as a direct result of the city’s choice to release a deeply flawed report without affording me due process”.  She said she would “consider redress in the courts”.

In an internal letter to colleagues last June, Falls said: “My reception into the city of Gresham has been at best dismal… It was very clear to me that those in [leadership] were not going to accept or support a Black man in a leadership position.”

Captain Claudio Grandjean, a lifelong east county resident and 34-year veteran of the Gresham Police Department has been named acting chief.

“I have had the privilege of serving the community that I grew up in and for one of the finest police departments around. I look forward to continuing that service to this community, along with the fine men and women of the Gresham Police Department,” said Capt. Grandjean.

Sells’ full resignation letter is below:

Dear Mr. Mayor, Mr. Clyne and City Council,

I hearby tender by resignation/retirement effective immediately. It has been my sincere honor to serve as the Chief of Police of the City of Gresham. During my tenure, I have made many wonderful friends and built professional relationships that will last a lifetime. I am proud of the work I performed and the legacy of integrity I leave behind.

In my job, I have always put the community of Gresham and my police officers ahead of the politics of City Hall. That was at my own peril, but I would not change how I put others first.

Let me be clear, I am not resigning voluntarily, but as a direct result of the City’s choice to release a deeply flawed report without affording me due process. The Report of Investigation was made public before any of it was shared with me. The Interim City Manager elected to adopt the findings of the Report without seeking any input from me. And while he has offered to give me a “pre-disciplinary meeting” and a “name clearing hearing” those settings are devoid of anything resembling due process, respect or fairness. I was given approximately ten days to prepare my response to a broad-sweeping 104-page report that took nearly seven months to prepare. I am not permitted to confront my accuser(s) nor call adverse witnesses. I have no access to the investigator’s files. I decline to participate under those circumstances. I have no meaningful opportunity to save my job or repair the reputational damage caused by the City’s reckless decision to publish and adopt the Report before I could respond.

In my opinion, the Report weaves a false narrative built on selected perspectives of anecdotal, incidents. It ignores key events and represents things out of context. The Report criticizes me for failing to develop a comprehensive new policing plan for which I was not hired, nor was I qualified and for which the City offered no assistance or resources. It incorrectly describes that I, and the police department, as a whole, oppose Diversity, Equity and Inclusion when in fact, the hires that I made during my tenure have drawn us closer to the demographics of Gresham than any other chief before me.

President Obama’s 2015 Task Force Report on 21st Century Policing introduced six important pillars. The first was building trust and legitimacy. The harsh reality is, in my opinion, the individual hired to develop policies and implement those pillars failed to accomplish that first pillar for himself, let alone for the department. This was not due to the color of his skin. This was not due to rumors about him. In my opinion, he simply did not build his own trust and legitimacy with the department. He did not participate or contribute meaningfully at meetings and town halls hosted by the Police Department. He did not build relationships and had low visibility within the Police Department. In my opinion, he was neither an effective change agent nor consensus builder. He focused on what he considered micro-aggressions, and not the big picture. In my opinion, he was not present and offered little that was creative, innovative or practical. In my opinion, his written work product that was presented to me (the Strategic Plan of GPD) was superficial and error-ridden. To the extent that his plan may have contained any new or concrete action items, he failed to secure funding or the institutional capacity to complete them. The one example that the investigator cited for his tangible accomplishment was the body worn camera program roll-out. This program was well on its way, as we had already applied for a grant and done the research, before he was even hired by the City.

I acknowledge that my selection of the word “lazy” in a private letter I penned after I originally retired, was a poor choice and one that I regret. I understand now that the word carries unintended baggage. It reflected my frustration that we were paid the same level (when he first arrived as Director of 21st Century Policing) but that I worked longer hours, was responsible for 160 employees and was almost always on call. The presumption that I meant it as a racist trope was inaccurate and offensive.

It is not my choice to retire at this time in my career. I believe I have been unfairly treated due to my age and sex, and I will consider redress in the courts. I will also reflect on my good fortune to have been blessed with the opportunity to lead a hard-working and dedicated force of incredible people. They take life and death risks for the rest of us, each and every day, and I will remain forever in their debt.

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