Portland State police chief takes the polar plunge in the Columbia River
Author: Jennifer Vo-Nguyen
Posted: March 12, 2019

Nothing will stop Portland State campus police from raising money for the Special Olympics. Not even the frigid Columbia River in the dead of winter.

PSU Police Chief Donnell “Tank” Tanksley took the bone-chilling plunge in February to raise money for the Special Olympics of Oregon, which held its 11th annual nationwide fundraising event known as “The Polar Plunge”. The event challenged volunteers and sponsors to run into the icy cold water to help fulfill a special athlete’s dream.

Tanksley was one of a thousand people who swam or waded in the Columbia.

“This is my first time doing the plunge,” Tanksley said. “A lot of people don’t want to do it because it’s so cold, but I felt accomplished after I was done.”

Tanksley and PSU officer Greg Marks raised the $700 in two days by sending out emails about the fundraiser on behalf of PSU police. Total donations for this year’s event is still being counted, but organizers expect to raise at least $175,000. Last year, statewide donations totaled up to about $350,000.

Portland State campus police participates in numerous fundraising events for the Special Olympics throughout the year. Last summer, the team participated in “Tip-A-Cop”, an event where police officers served food at restaurants like The Old Spaghetti Factory and Red Robin.

Other events that PSU police have participated in for the organization include “Police On The Pantry”, an event in which police officers visit Plaid Pantry and encourage donations from customers.   

Tanksley believes that it’s important to volunteer for organizations like the Special Olympics to help others beyond the PSU community.

“Law enforcement all around the country are very involved in the Special Olympics.” Tanksley said. “It’s all about community, we don’t want to only help the community on campus, we also want to help outside the walls of PSU. Although the Special Olympics athletes have their own challenges, they still like competing and we want to support them.”


Portland State chief of police Donnell "Tank" Tanksley participates in the 2019 Polar Plunge in the Columbia River. Photos by @PSU_CPSO on Twitter