Astoria Police Chief Brad Johnston announced his retirement Wednesday after 25 years with the police department.
In a message posted on Facebook, Johnston, who had also served as assistant city manager, said he was moving on to other opportunities. He described his departure as “sudden, but necessary,” but did not offer any other explanation.
Astoria City Manager Brett Estes said he received Johnston’s notice Wednesday. Johnston’s retirement is effective immediately and Deputy Chief Eric Halverson will take over his duties until an interim chief is found. The city plans to begin recruiting for a new police chief soon.
“Eric is doing a great job at filling in at this point in time,” Estes said.
Johnston, who could not immediately be reached for comment, recalled on Facebook how he joined the police department as a 28-year-old recruit and moved up through the ranks. He was named police chief and assistant city manager in 2014.
Johnston stepped down as assistant city manager in July, describing the dual role as exhausting.
“When I came here I said my goal was to change my little corner of the world,” he wrote on Facebook Wednesday announcing his retirement. “I hope I have done so for the better.”
“As I move on to other opportunities, I will always hold this time and place as special. I have rolled in your gutters with those who would harm the community; I have held the hands of victims in pain. You have welcomed me into your lives. I will leave here with plenty of scars inside and out but I will also leave here with a heart that is fuller for the experience,” he continued. “I have had the pleasure of working with amazing people in the police department, the city, and the community.
“Your police department is comprised of great people. They want the best for you and the community at large. They cannot do it without you. They need you to be involved in the business of public safety.
“My departure is sudden, but necessary. I hope it will be good for the community and the department. Until we meet again, it was my privilege to serve you.”
Johnston’s retirement comes as the department struggles with a short staff. Two officers transferred to the Clatsop County Sheriff’s Office earlier this year while one more resigned. Due to the lengthy training period at the Oregon Public Safety Academy in Salem, the department will likely remain short-staffed into next year.
Officers have been required to work overtime shifts, and detectives have had to take on patrol duties. Johnston admitted in April that, “It’s going to be a very difficult time for our department.”
In a Facebook post in July announcing that he was resigning as assistant city manager, the police chief spoke of the tension in the dual roles.
“It is exhausting,” Johnston wrote. “It is also exhausting for my department. The members of my department could not trust that I had their best interest in a primary position at all times. That is not a healthy position to put them in. Members of the community have opined that I may be a part-time police chief. It is clear that the image of a dual role is not one that is healthy for the legitimacy of the department with our community.”
Clatsop County District Attorney Josh Marquis said he was surprised by Johnston’s announcement. “I didn’t know that was coming,” he said. “I’m grateful for all the things Brad has done.
“But Astoria needs to make some changes. And I’m confident that they will.”