Victoria Burton went to work for the Portland Police Bureau in 1981 with the goal of serving as a role model.
On Wednesday, Burton is retiring after 29 years of dedicated service and the community is thanking her for the positive influence she has made. The public is invited to her retirement reception on Friday, April 23 from 2 to 4 p.m. at Emmanuel Temple, 1033 North Sumner Street.
Burton began her career by getting assigned to the North Precinct where she could work the Albina community, which at that time had the largest population of African Americans in Portland.
She hoped to serve as a role model for future generations, letting them know that becoming a police officer was not only possible, but a good choice, while also validating the the struggles of the elders to say their struggles were not in vain.
Her work over the years included the Drug and Vice Division where she served as an officer assigned to narcotics. She was later assigned to the Portland Airport Inter-Agency Narcotic Team; the bureau’s Personnel Division, where she served as a minority recruiter; and the Juvenile Service Division where she worked with runaway prostitutes and pimps.
Little did she know that her various assignments were preparing her to do something that would have a life changing impact not only on her life, but the community at large and would change the way the bureau provided services to victims of traumatic incidents in particular Portland’s diverse communities.
Because of the drug and gang violence that was plaguing the African American community, Officer Burton envisioned a community where ministers, civic and community leaders as well as ordinary citizens of inner north and northeast Portland would come together on a formal basis to address the effects of violence and assist the family and community following a shooting or homicide.
As part of this community policing philosophy, former Portland Police Chief Moose gave his approval and allowed Burton to take her idea and develop it into a program for the bureau known as the Crisis Response Team.
As Chief Moose wrote in his book, “Officer Victoria Wade had been pushing this idea for a number of years. As chief, I was able to listen to her and then help make her dream a reality.”
In 1993, Officer Burton was transferred to the North Precinct Neighborhood Response Team and later to the Northeast Response Team, where not only did she begin the journey of developing the program, but she was also the liaison officer at Iris Court and for the Northeast Aging Services. Later while managing the CRT she was also assigned to the black gang detail.
Officer Burton has received numerous awards over the years, including being named a Woman of Achievement by the Oregon Commission for Women; a Frontline Soldier by the Albina Ministerial Alliance; and earning a Portland Police Bureau Commendation Medal.
During her tenure with the crises team, she trained volunteers and responded to over 450 call-outs ranging from homicides, murder-suicides, aggravated shootings, various types of accidental deaths, officer-involved deaths and community demonstrations and unrest.
Burton said she saw her work as a calling. Although she is retiring her heart is still with the families she served and volunteers who held her up and served the community as well. She said her career has been fulfilling and encourages other women and people of color not just to consider but to choose law enforcement as a career.
Burton hopes that many of the families she and the responders she has worked with over the years will come to her retirement reception so she can personally thank them for their courage and the inspiration they have had on her life.