Moose, Portland’s first Black chief, led the Portland Police Bureau from 1993 to 1999.
Charles Moose is sworn in as Portland’s first Black police chief in 1993. (WW archival photo)
By Nigel Jaquiss November 26, 2021 at 1:54 pm PST
Former Portland Police Bureau Chief Charles Moose has died at age 68.
Moose’s wife, Sandy, reported her husband’s death Thanskgiving night, telling friends on Facebook that Moose died while he watched a televised football game. The Washington Postconfirmed Moose’s death today and provided a statement from the agency where he earned his greatest fame, the Montgomery County (Md.) Police Department.
“He was a great leader and led our department through the D.C. Sniper investigation, one of the most difficult crime sprees in our country’s history,” the department said in the statement to the Post. “We send condolences to his wife Sandy and all of his family and friends.”
Moose, a North Carolina native, led the Portland Police Bureau from 1993 to 1999, the first Black man to hold that job. He had hoped to go to law school but after being recruited by PPB in his early 20s, he rose steadily through the bureau. A strong proponent of community policing, he wrote his Ph.D. thesis on the topic at Portland State University.
In 1999, Moose left Portland for the top police job in Montgomery County, Maryland’s largest and most affluent county, located adjacent to Washington, D.C.
In 2002, he became a regular face on national television and in the press as a sniper terrorized his county and nearby areas, killing 10 and wounding three more in a series of seemingly random attacks attributed to the “Beltway Sniper.” Moose’s steady leadership under pressure earned him accolades, and after 23 days, his officers arrested the sniper John Allen Muhammad and a teen-aged helper Lee Boyd Malvo.
Moose later signed book and movie deals about the killing spree. The Montgomery County Board of Supervisors decided those deals represented a violation of ethics rules that prohibit public employees from using their positions for private gain, so Moose gave up his job.
Today, Montgomery County Executive Marc Erlich paid tribute to Moose’s leadership during the sniper episode in a statement. “For 23 days, Chief Moose provided a calming presence in the midst of the terror and fear that consumed our county and the Washington region and was nationally recognized for his efforts,” Erlich said. “We are forever grateful for his contributions to public safety during his tenure.”
Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell added his thoughts in a statement. “I am deeply saddened by the death of Chief Charles Moose last night,” Lovell said. “I feel connected to Chief Moose as he was the first African American chief, a champion of community policing and led the bureau during challenging times.”
You could see the lights of the Walnut Park Fred Meyer from our upstairs window. Charlie Moose lived close by, in a big old gracious house that had belonged to two elderly sisters. My mother had been to “tea” there many times. Now in the evenings Charlie and his wife would sit on the steps of the front porch and visit with the neighborhood kids as they paused on their bikes while the evening gathered.
Nordstrom’s was just beginning to be a marker of big money and bling. Chief Moose was looking at some jewelry for his wife when the very white, very snooty salesgirl was rude to him, not recognizing him. He threw a fit. People thought this was rude. I was on his side. Earlier the barista at the espresso place had passed me over five times in order to wait on and flirt with handsome young men.
I never worked for Moose or PPD, but when I began as an animal control officer in 1973, the Multnomah County Sheriff I worked for was black man named Jordan, who was also recruited to a big city hot spot, Atlanta, where a deranged clown was murdering boys. Moose and Jordan have remained in my thoughts.