West Linn residents meet candidates for police chief
The two finalists to become West Linn's next police chief — retired Portland Police Bureau Lt. Terry Kruger and Beaverton Police Capt. Jeffrey Williams — agree that effective police work can't happen without visibility and involvement within the community.
They put that philosophy to the test at a public reception held Wednesday, April 18, at the West Linn Police Station. For just over an hour, the candidates stood before several dozen residents and City staff members and answered five prepared questions from the City that were intended to showcase the skills and vision they would bring as West Linn's new police chief.
"We'll put our candidates through the paces tonight," City Manager Eileen Stein said before introducing Kruger and Williams. "Police chief is a very visible position in a community, and being able to speak to audiences and talk on their feet and organize their thoughts quickly is part of the skillset for a police chief."
Kruger — a 25-year West Linn resident — served in the Portland Police Bureau for 28 years before retiring in 2016 as police adjutant lieutenant. In that role, he was the adjutant for two chiefs of police while supervising the communications unit and serving as a business liaison.
Williams has served with the Beaverton Police Department since 2011. As captain, he currently manages oversight of the department's patrol, traffic, training and administration divisions.
WLPD Capt. Neil Hennelly has served as acting chief since Terry Timeus retired last fall, but plans to retire in June and thus did not apply for the permanent role.
West Linn received 47 applications for the position and interviewed six candidates before narrowing the list to two.
At the reception, Kruger and Williams were first asked to introduce themselves and describe why they would be well-suited for the position. Speaking first, Kruger said he was born into a policing family and retired from the Portland Police Bureau early due to health issues within his family. Two years later, he hoped to re-enter the law enforcement world and bring his natural skills to West Linn.
"This job is all about dealing with people and understanding where they came from and how they got there," Kruger said. "I have strong common sense, and sometimes that seems anything but common. And it has helped me to take situations that for others were spinning out of control and wrap my arms around them, calm things down, slow things down and make thoughtful decisions."
Williams said his interest in law enforcement began in elementary school, and his commitment never wavered. After starting his career in Forest Grove before moving on to Beaverton, he felt his experience was perfectly suited for a place like West Linn.
"When I saw this (job) announcement, I felt like it was written for me," Williams said. "I really felt like the experiences I had in Forest Grove, a community of similar size, really prepared me, and then the depth of my experiences when I went to Beaverton. (I felt) that I could bring a lot and that I would understand what it took to build relationships in a community of this size and be effective as a police chief."
Asked what their focuses would be during their first 100 days as chief, Kruger and Williams agreed that communication both internal and external would be crucial.
"I think it will be important to talk to people inside the organization to find out what things are important to them, what their motivators are — what things about the department they're proud about so we can come up with some plans and some visions which align with some really great things that already exist in the organization," Williams said. "In the first 100 days, it will be important to assess the organizational wellness of the department."
"Change in any organization brings with it rumor, anxiety — it brings with it a bunch of distractions," Kruger said. "So my first order of business will be to address those distractions and those rumors ... the way to do that is to meet with everybody."
Kruger and Williams said they would also meet externally with neighboring law enforcement and emergency response agencies, as well as the West Linn-Wilsonville School District, citizen advisory groups and local organizations like the West Linn Rotary and Chamber of Commerce.
The candidates were also asked how they would address problems related to officer retention.
"These are tough times for law enforcement nationally, as a profession ... there's not a lot of positive light being shone on law enforcement at this time," Kruger said. "We need to be looking for the right candidates for West Linn, that's really critical here. You don't want some 21-year-old kid that's expecting car chases and bank robberies and foot chases all the time. That's not what he's going to find here and after a few years he's going to be enticed by some shinier object like a salmon to a spinner, and he'll leave."
Williams said it would be important to have every member of the department think like a recruiter, while also creating an environment where talent can be promoted from within.
"Some of the things I'm most proud of both in Forest Grove and Beaverton are the people for whom I was responsible supervising are now the supervisors and leaders of those organizations," Williams said. "I very much think it's important to develop talent within the organization and then promote from within whenever possible."
Finally, Williams and Kruger were asked how they would work to promote equity and ensure that people of all backgrounds felt protected.
"When segments of community feel they don't have access to the police department, that can cause physical ailment to the community," Williams said. "We are not doing our job if we only have 80 percent of the community willing to tell us what's going on in the community, or if only 70 percent trust us with their safety."
He added that language barriers can be particularly burdensome, and that he would take inventory of the language services available at the department.
Kruger emphasized department culture and accountability.
"The really big thing is creating a culture internally within the organization where we see the value of people, all people," Kruger said. "There is one race — it is the human race — and we are a part of it. Creating that culture internally, it starts with me."
Stein is expected to announce her hire within the next several weeks.