'I want to reach people's expectations.'
When Terry Kruger retired from the Portland Police Bureau two years ago, he wasn't ready to step away from a career he loves.
With 28 years of experience under his belt, he'd risen to the rank of adjutant lieutenant to the chief of police. He was living out his childhood dream and continuing a long line of police work in his family.
But it was family that called in 2016, as Kruger — a 25-year West Linn resident — stepped aside to tend to the health of his ailing parents. And as it turned out, retirement wasn't half bad.
"I was making full use of it — I was really enjoying the time and spending a lot of time with my parents, and things were going very well," Kruger said.
Then, in January 2018, West Linn formally opened the recruiting process for its next chief of police. Suddenly, Kruger's phone wouldn't stop ringing.
"People that know me and have known me for a long time, both within the profession and just within the community, thought that this was something I would be good at, that I could bring a benefit to the city, that they would like to see me in this position," Kruger said. "Knowing me and my leadership style and my character and my ethics, they believed I was a good fit for the community."
Kruger spoke with his family and, by his count, 28 other community members — everyone from city councilors to faith leaders, Rotary club members to police officers — before he decided to apply for the position.
Five months later, his retirement officially came to an end. On June 4, Kruger will return to law enforcement as West Linn's new police chief.
"I was excited, and nervous," Kruger said of the moment he was offered the job. "I want to reach people's expectations, and expectations are high. I want to get in there — I just want to get started. And the longer it takes to get in there and get started, you're just feeling this build-up of energy and you just want to go back to work and get started on things that are important."
Born in Portland and raised in Tigard, Kruger never considered anything but law enforcement as a career. And he had plenty of examples to follow: His father spent 29 years as a police officer, while his mother was a nurse in the Multnomah County Jail system. Kruger's brother, eight years his senior, would go on to enter the police force before Terry followed his lead.
"It's an honorable profession — that appealed to me," Kruger said. "I didn't like to see people wronged; I always hated bullies. And I always got along with people from all walks of life, had always been very social and cared about people. People are what are important to me."
Still, his early years on the force were eye-opening.
"I thought I knew what to expect," he said. "I had gone on a ride-along with my brother and I'd gone on a ride-along with my dad, but when you get out there as a police officer, your eyes get yanked wide open," Kruger said. "You are out there with society in their times of crisis and trauma and victimization and you're dealing with a subset of society that most people don't see, don't deal with on a daily basis, so it was very interesting because there's a big learning curve."
But he loved it, and over the years he found himself in a variety of leadership roles. At one point, he oversaw the PPB detective division and units focused on homicide, felony assault, bias crimes, cold cases and missing persons. As a sergeant, he was team leader for the Special Emergency Reaction Team (SERT). And as adjutant lieutenant, he served under two chiefs of police while supervising the communications unit and serving as a business liaison.
"I had never aspired to positions of leadership or management in my life," Kruger said. "And yet I've always been recruited, approached for positions of leadership throughout my career. ... And each time it's been fulfilling and I've had great success and enjoyed the various assignments I've had and the responsibilities I've held. And I expect this will be no different."
Kruger's leadership qualities were apparent to City staff and community members during the recruitment process. In a note to the City Council announcing her selection for chief, City Manager Eileen Stein said that Kruger was the unanimous choice from a panel comprised of police command staff and City administrators, and that 15 of 19 community members who shared written comments at a public reception listed Kruger as their preferred candidate (the other finalist was Beaverton Police Captain Jeffrey Williams).
"I am excited by his familiarity with the department, with the community, with his command presence, his calming demeanor, and that he was the top choice of the other department directors and members of the city leadership team," Stein said in that note.
Since the announcement of Kruger's candidacy, some community members have shared concerns about Kruger's role in two officer-involved shootings during his career. In both cases — which took place in 1996 and 2005 — Kruger was the shooter and investigations cleared him and the Bureau of any wrongdoing.
"It's not a quick, easy conversation," Kruger said. "I can tell you that taking another person's life is not a normal thing to do. It's not. It's not fun. It doesn't just go away. That's not something you ever forget."
He said the details of those incidents have at times been misinterpreted or misreported.
"The details of both of those shootings have been completely investigated — there was found to be no wrongdoing either in policy, procedure or law," Kruger said. "I'd be happy to sit down and have a conversation and share all of the details of both of those shootings with any of the people that have serious questions. Because I think — well, I know — once they hear all of the facts of both of those incidents, they won't have any questions about the decisions that were made."
Those experiences give Kruger perspective that he can share with other officers as chief. And in general, he said communication will be the key facet of his leadership.
"I'm a relational leader," he said. "I have high standards for both ethics and performance, but I care about people the most. ... As a leader, you set the standard with relationships, compassion, common sense, reasonableness, tolerance, high standards, high morals."
He said that ethos will extend to the broader community as well.
"I already have a lot of relationships within this community I can build on and get my officers involved in," Kruger said. "We need to know what the community wants, and the only way to know what the community wants is to get out there ourselves."