While in college, University of Portland alum Jami Resch had every intention of taking the MCAT and going to medical school after graduation. By the time graduation came, the situation changed. Resch was married and had a child, and realized that medical school was not a commitment she wanted to make at that point in her life.
Resch was working at a doctor’s office at the time, and that’s where she decided what her next step would be.
“I saw the recruiting ad for the bureau who was trying to hire a bunch of officers, and somebody said, ‘try that.’ And so I applied,” Resch said. “And that is exactly how I got here. I had never once in my life thought I would want to be a police officer.”
Resch grew up in Beaverton and graduated from UP in 1996, and three years later joined the Portland Police Bureau. In 2008, Resch was promoted to Sergeant, and then Lieutenant in 2012. Following that, Resch was promoted to captain in 2016, and in 2018 was appointed assistant chief of the investigations branch. On Dec. 31, almost 21 years after the start of her career, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler appointed Resch as the 49th Portland police chief. Resch replaced former Portland Police Chief Danielle Outlaw, who was recently named police chief in Philadelphia.
“It was a fantastic education,” Resch said. “I think what it did is it gave me the work ethic I needed … and also that compassionate side you need to be a police officer.”
Resch spent her first year living on campus in Kenna Hall and pursued a bachelor’s degree in allied health sciences with a minor in psychology. The close community and small class sizes made the school unique, Resch said.
“Going into healthcare is also a field in which you’re looking to be helpful, and that’s also the police-related field,” Resch said. “So, I think a lot of those classes, and also a lot of the psychology classes I took were very helpful when I ended up in this career.”
When Resch applied to the Portland police bureau, she had very little experience and did not take any criminology classes during her time at UP. Despite that, Resch has seen a quick rise in the bureau, according to The Oregonian, and has taken many different roles during her time in law enforcement.
In Resch’s short time as police chief, she has faced a handful of challenges, such as staff shortages, political polarization, volatile protests and how police deal with pedestrians with mental illness.
Having gone from an aspiring doctor to a police chief, Resch believes that students should take this time in their life to figure out what they really want to do and to not be afraid of change.
“I think the important piece to remember is to finish,” Resch said. “To finish what you started. If your goal is to graduate from college and you started, I think a good example of who you are is if you finish. If you’re in college and you’re like, ‘I’m struggling, this isn’t what I thought it would be,’ look at other options. Don’t be afraid to make those changes. You’re at a time in your life, now, where you can do that.”
Austin De Dios is a reporter for The Beacon. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.