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Louie redux: former chief returns on interim basis


Although he served in the role for 15 years, Ron Louie, Hillsboro’s interim police chief, all of a sudden is the “new kid on the block.”by: COURTESY PHOTO: CITY OF HILLSBORO - Interim Police Chief Ron Louie, a former Marine and a veteran of the Vietnam War, is not interested in taking the chiefs job permanently.

In the wake of the unexpected resignation of Police Chief Carey Sullivan — Sullivan’s last day on the job was March 9 — Hillsboro City Manager Michael Brown asked former police chief Louie if he was willing to take over the chief’s responsibilities on a temporary basis.

Louie, who had retired in 2007 after a lengthy stint at the helm of the Hillsboro Police Department, said “yes,” and is once again serving as the city’s top law enforcement officer.

In a Friday interview, Louie said he never expected he’d be back.

“After 20 years as a police chief — five years in Astoria and 15 in Hillsboro — and a total of 33 years in law enforcement, I never thought about returning to the job,” he said. “But it’s a calling of sorts, and being asked to temporarily assist an agency so great as Hillsboro was hard to turn down.”

Given that he has been away from active law enforcement duty for more than five years, he conceded that taking over a major city’s police agency has left him a bit shocked.

“It has all evolved so quickly — from being asked, to accepting, then walking through the door — that even at my age and experience, it has been a whirlwind experience,” Louie explained.

While it has been several years since he retired, Louie pointed out that he has not been a stranger to the Hillsboro Police Department, staying involved by attending a variety of police ceremonies and celebrations.

Now that he’s back, the former Marine said his primary assignment will be to guide the search for a new police chief, a process that could take several months. He explained there are a number of steps to go through before a new chief can be brought in.

According to Louie, now that the department has an interim chief in place, the next step will be to make an overall assessment of the Hillsboro Police Department, including asking the membership how they want to participate in the selection process. After that, he said, will come the development of a recruitment process, followed by the actual assessment event or events where the finalists compete.

Once that step is completed, the field of candidates will be narrowed to just a few. At that point, there will be background checks of each individual remaining under consideration, followed by a final selection of the new chief.

“This process can take up to five or six months,” Louie said. “And with a community the size of Hillsboro, it will have to be a nationwide search.”

Since stepping in as interim chief last week, Louie said he has not had any direct contact with Sullivan.

“Not yet,” Louie said, “but I do want to see Carey. We chiefs are a fraternity, and we all know what it is like to face the decisions Chief Sullivan has had to make.”

Louie squashed any idea that he might consider returning as Hillsboro’s permanent police chief.

“Nope,” he said. “I love being a chief and miss all the people, but I also love teaching, and golf, and skiing, and traveling. Get the picture?”

Since leaving the police force, Louie has been busy teaching at area colleges. He is an adjunct professor of criminal justice at Portland State University and Portland Community College, and an adjunct professor of political science at Pacific University in Forest Grove.

Louie pointed out that he has been impressed with the way Hillsboro’s police officers have responded to Sullivan’s departure.

“Any change creates disruption and concern with the unknown,” Louie said. “As far as how the membership is handling it, well, HPD police officers and staff are very professional, and they will continue providing outstanding service to the community without missing a step. That’s how we in public safety are wired.”

Louie acknowledged the transition will almost certainly create additional difficulties for the city’s police force, but he believes the department’s officers and staff are handling the challenge very well.

“There is always stress and strain with losing leadership; there is a sense of loss and concern with what the future holds,” Louie explained. “I can only speak for my one week back home again, but I can say they are quite literally remaining calm and carrying on. Again, you are talking about people who face adversity — even danger — every shift, and they are resilient.”