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Portland’s first female police chief and long-time Morro Bay resident, Penny Harrington, dies at 79

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Courtesy: Portland Police Bureau
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Penny Harrington, Portland's first female police chief and long-time Morro Bay resident, died at 79.

Portland’s first female police chief and long-time Morro Bay resident, Penny Harrington, has died at 79.

Harrington was not only Portland’s first police chief. She was also the first female detective, sergeant, lieutenant and captain at the Portland Police Bureau.

And when she was appointed as chief in 1985, she became the first female of any major police agency in the U.S. to hold that title.

In a tweet, current Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell paid tribute to Harrington:

‘Penny influenced women across the country while she was Chief and later throughout her career. We extend our sympathy to her family and friends during this difficult time.’

Chief Lovell said she is a legend at the police bureau.

After her career in law enforcement, Harrington moved to Morro Bay about 20 years ago. She opened a store called Ruby Dragon, which sold crystals, jewelry and other natural healing items.

Janné Reddell ran a meditation and yoga studio just a half-block from Ruby Dragon. She has lived on the Central Coast for 35 years and was one of Harrington’s long-time friends.

“Well, at first it was basically through business,” Reddell said. “But we got to a point, the last two years or so, [where] we talked every day.”

She said Harrington was a kind woman who wanted to help people.

“She would do anything for you, anything. She was just a loving, giving person,” Reddell said. “The soft side of her was really, really soft.”

But, Reddell said, Harrington would have said her greatest calling was taking care of her granddaughter.

“She just had this deep love for her and anything that she pretty much needed she was there to supply — love, caring, support,” Reddell said.

Reddell said Harrington’s passing has been a hard adjustment. She said she hopes people remember that Harrington made a difference in the world, especially for women in policing.

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