Bend's interim police chief talks of the future

Jim Porter discusses new position, projects and needs

May 2014: Interim chief lays out plans

BEND, Ore. - Early this year, the Bend Police Department fired its chief after a sex scandal and reports of bad morale.

Today, the department is rebuilding.

"Things are going really well," Interim Bend Police Chief Jim Porter said. "We've worked on refocusing some of what we do administratively, a lot of what we do operationally, to take us in a little bit of a different direction than we've been going in the past."

It's a past Porter knows well. He's been with the department for almost three decades.

"We always had extremely, relatively high morale for our department," Porter said. "We had high satisfaction, we had high support in our command staff, and that had fallen off significantly."

The drop was seen in 2013 city surveys.

But if the same question of morale was asked today, would the results look any different?

"There's just a feeling that we have finally broken loose, and we're really going somewhere," Porter said.

"I think everybody that works at the Bend Police Department knows where the department's going," Cpl. Eric Hagel said. "I think that's what really drives our morale to come up."

To make sure that morale stays up, Porter is leveling the playing field.

"Historically, law enforcement is per military hierarchy, and I'd like to flatten it out a little more, and we're moving there," Porter said. "Where officers have the ability to come up and say, 'You know captain, lieutenant, chief, I think this is the direction we should go, and here's some ideas.'"

Porter says his 112-person staff is the department's biggest strength.

"We meet people when they're in crisis, when they're at the worst points of their lives. So the object is to build a strong culture of service, and that's what we have here," Porter said.

With that strong culture, community-based policing and a new leader, Porter said the Bend Police Department is only going to get better.

"My personality is such when I take these profiles, I'm a person that brings teams together," Porter said. "I think it's important that a chief not so much is what chiefs have been in the past, the guy that draws the sword and leads the charge, but the chief is the person that brings the best team together to lead the charge."

When asked about his predecessor, Porter said former chief Jeff Sale did a lot of good. Porter said Sale got the department moving after four years of budget decline, advancing it with technology.

In 2013, the Bend Police Department had about 94,000 calls for service. They arrested about 2,800 people, and issued around 6,000 citations. Out of that, there were only 26 complaints about officer conduct.

"Quite frankly, that's phenomenal," Porter said. "I think any business in the private sector would be really happy if they had those kind of numbers."

Porter said the department is centered around community-based policing.

"Our job is not just to enforce the law, but to find solutions, to take our time. We've restructured how we're going to do that in the upcoming year," Porter said.

The first reconstruction -- technology.

"There is so much information technology out there that we can use to make us more efficient at what we do, identify problems that we have," Porter said. "We saw that as our No. 1 need -- we need to be more efficient, and the way we do that's with technology."

Bend police officers will soon be wearing body cameras.

"You capture actual facts," the interim chief said. "It gives you the ability to maintain that evidence for court, which reduces your court time, because you're able to go to court less often, and it can be controlled."

The next need is in schools.

"Even before the tragedy at Bend High, we established that we were under-serving our schools," Porter said.

Porter said he's working to get an additional school resource officer.

"It will give those officers more time to focus on inside and help the kids. That is a true community service process," Porter said.

The third area of reconstruction is downtown Bend.

"We've found that if we have consistent staffing downtown, and I mean the quarry of downtown, we have found that we are able to push crime down and bring up livability," Porter said.

Porter said he's asked for two officers to be assigned strictly to the downtown area, which has been hit by a serial bank robber time and time again.

"In my experience, and I've worked two serial bank robbery cases in my career, the very people that are very good at it -- they're very hard to catch. They just are," Porter said.

Porter said the extra police are not a result of the robberies, but rather a move to reestablish the department's presence downtown.

"We do not have people punch a clock to take their salary home every month --  doesn't happen," Porter said. "They want to satisfy the people who they serve."

The department also resigned its agreement with Bend Parks and Recreation to have an officer in Drake Park for another year.

Jim Porter's chief position is just temporary, and the department will eventually fill the position permanently. Porter would not comment on whether he will apply for that position.

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