TriMet’s new Transit Police Commander: “The police are the people, and the people are the police”

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Commander Kevin Modica excited to lead the community-policing approach of the Transit Police Division

Commander Kevin Modica (left) with Portland Police Bureau Chief Mike Reese (right) at July promotion ceremony

Commander Kevin Modica (left) with Portland Police Bureau Chief Mike Reese (right) at July promotion ceremony

Commander Kevin Modica may be new to TriMet’s Transit Police Division (TPD), but he’s not new to the concept of community policing behind the division, what he describes as a “fantastic” model. Commander Modica is excited to lead the division and the officers he says provide “great service” for TriMet.

Modica, age 55, was promoted to Commander in June and assigned to TPD. He replaces Mike Crebs who was promoted to Assistant Chief at the Portland Police Bureau (PPB). Commander Modica has served in law enforcement for 31 years, the past 27 with the PPB.

“Most of my time in law enforcement I’ve worked closely with the community,” Commander Modica told the TriMet Board of Directors on Wednesday, July 24, 2013 during his formal introduction to TriMet.

“I’m just a steward for the 17 police agencies that partner with TriMet to provide a safe transit system for our citizens, and particularly youth,” said the Commander. “Law enforcement officers on transit have a big role in prevention and visibility. The officers provide a guidepost for civility, offer assistance and, when needed, intervene.”

TriMet’s Transit Police Division members
  • Portland Police Bureau
  • Clackamas Co. Sheriff’s Office
  • Multnomah Co. Sheriff’s Office
  • Washington Co. Sheriff’s Office
  • Beaverton Police Department
  • Cornelius Police Department
  • Forest Grove Police Department
  • Gresham Police Department
  • Hillsboro Police Department
  • Lake Oswego Police Department
  • Milwaukie Police Department
  • Oregon City Police Department
  • Port of Portland Police
  • Tigard Police Department
  • Troutdale Police Department
  • Tualatin Police Department
  • West Linn Police Department

TriMet’s Transit Police Division is a unique, collaborative model. While technically a division of the Portland Police Bureau, it is made up of officers from 17 local police agencies. Each of the agencies has a specific number of officers they assign to TPD. Currently, officers serve three or four year terms, except for those who work on our canine teams. Those officers serve seven years. During their assignments, the officers work full time on TPD.

“Commander Modica brings a different level of experiences to TPD, especially with youth,” said TriMet Executive Director of Safety, Security and Environmental Service Harry Saporta. “His connections with community-based organizations, faith based communities, schools, kids and youth groups will be valuable. We want to learn from him and learn how we can bring new resources to transit policing.”

Before his assignment with TPD, Commander Modica worked in the Family Services Division and Portland Office of Emergency Management. He served as the architect in rebuilding of PPB’s Youth Services Division. Modica also previously worked on the Gang Enforcement Team as an Officer and a supervisor, as well as in the Gang Resistance Education and Training Program (GREAT), among others.

Youth, Commander Modica says, are our future. “Transit is a huge tool for young people to utilize. It opens the world for them. They can go all over the metro area – go to the library, to the zoo, to OMSI, to parks. They can get a job and take TriMet there. They can use it to take advance classes and to go to college.”

But with using TriMet – what the Commander describes as a lifeline for youth and a linkage to the community – comes responsibility. “Who do you care most about in your family? Would you want them to have to sit on a cut up MAX seat or put up with disruptive behavior on the bus?,” he asks. “I’d like to think everyone would understand what it is like to be a good steward of transit.”

Commander Modica has received many awards including the Dennis Darden Officer of the Year Awards, two Distinguished Service Medals, and the MLK Lifetime Achievement Award. He is a member in good standing in the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE) and serves on the National Policy Board for GREAT, is a Fellow candidate at the Georgetown University Juvenile Crime Prevention Institute and is a former instructor at the Oregon Department of Safety Standards and Training (DPSST).

Commander Modica attended the JFK School of Government for Crisis Management and the Hatfield School of Government at Portland State University. He has three daughters: Lauren, 30, is an actress in Portland; Rachel, 27, is a teacher in New York; and, Naomi, 23, who recently graduated from the University of Oregon. All, the Commander says proudly, use transit.