Penny Harrington

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Penny Harrington
Born(1942-03-02)March 2, 1942
DiedSeptember 15, 2021(2021-09-15) (aged 79)
Known forFirst female chief of the Portland Police Bureau, making her the first female to head a major police department in the United States
SpouseGary Harrington (divorced)

Penny E. Harrington (March 2, 1942 – September 15, 2021)[1] was an American police officer who became the first female chief of the Portland Police Bureau, making her the first female to head a major police department in the United States.[2]


Harrington began working as a policewoman in 1964, when there were only 12 women in her department.[3] She was appointed chief of the Portland Police Bureau in January 1985.[4] An investigative report characterized her administration as a failure after 17 months.[5] The recommendation by a three-member panel appointed by Mayor Bud Clark resulted in her resignation in 1986.[4]

In 1987 Harrington filed a federal sex discrimination suit claiming that members of the police department "conspired to embarrass and drive her from office", making it difficult for her to obtain employment following her "forced" resignation.[6] In 1988 Harrington became a special assistant to the California State Bar's director of investigations to "handle a wide range of special projects, including training and computers".[4]

In 1995, she founded The National Center for Women & Policing with Katherine Spillar, Executive Vice President of the Feminist Majority Foundation. The NCWP aims to promote increasing the number of women throughout all ranks of law enforcement in an effort to improve police response to violence against women, as well as reduce police brutality and excessive force, and improve community policing reforms.[7] Harrington died on September 15, 2021, in Morro Bay, California, where she lived.[8]


Harrington was the author of three books. With the NCWP, Harrington helped write Recruiting & Retaining Women: A Self Assessment Guide for Law Enforcement, aimed at helping law enforcement agencies increase and maintain the number of female officers in their units.[9] Harrington also co-authored the text Investigating Sexual Harassment in Law Enforcement Agencies with Kimberly A. Lonsway, to address issues of sexual harassment in fire and police departments and promote proactivity through prevention and training.[10] In 1999, Harrington wrote an autobiography, published by Brittany Publications, Ltd., titled Triumph of Spirit about her successes, trails, and tribulations during her time working for the police force.[11][12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Harrington, Penny, 1942-". Library of Congress Name Authority File. Library of Congress. June 7, 2000. Retrieved November 22, 2015.
  2. ^ O'Hara, Ralph. "The History of the Portland Police Bureau; A Look Back". City of Portland, Oregon. Retrieved February 14, 2012.
  3. ^ Bello, Grace. "The Gals in Blue: Where Are the Real-Life Olivia Bensons?". Retrieved March 16, 2013.
  4. ^ a b c "The State". Los Angeles Times. September 16, 1988. ISSN 0458-3035. OCLC 3638237. Retrieved November 22, 2015.
  5. ^ Turner, Wallace (1986-06-03). "Under Fire, Woman Quits as Portland Police Chief". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-11-02.
  6. ^ "The Nation: Female Chief Alleges Bias". Los Angeles Times. May 14, 1987. ISSN 0458-3035. OCLC 3638237. Retrieved February 17, 2012.
  7. ^ "National Center For Women and Policing". Retrieved 2015-11-23.
  8. ^ Forrest, Jack (17 September 2021). "Penny Harrington, Portland's first female police chief, dies at 79". The Oregonian. Retrieved 17 September 2021.
  9. ^ "Recruiting and Retaining Women : A Self-Assessment Guide for Law Enforcement" (PDF). Retrieved 2015-11-23.
  10. ^ Penny E. Harrington; Kimberly A. Lonsway (2007). Investigating Sexual Harassment in Law Enforcement and Nontraditional Fields for Women. ISBN 9780131185197.
  11. ^ "Brittany Publications featuring Chief Penny Harrington". Retrieved 2015-11-23.
  12. ^ Harrington, Penny (1999). Triumph of Spirit: An Autobiography by Chief Penny Harrington. ISBN 9780941394055.

External links[edit]