Q & A With New Bend Police Chief Mike Krantz | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon
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Q & A With New Bend Police Chief Mike Krantz 

Krantz says he wants to continue build on the strengths of the BPD. As a former Portland police leader, he said he has no intention of tear gassing peaceful protesters

Bend Police Chief Mike Krantz had his first day on the job Aug. 10. The Source sat down with Krantz last week to learn more about his background, what drew him to Bend and his vision for running the BPD.

click to enlarge Bend Police Chief Mike Krantz started work Aug. 10. - CITY OF BEND
  • City of Bend
  • Bend Police Chief Mike Krantz started work Aug. 10.
Krantz comes from the Portland Police Bureau, the largest department in the state, where he’s served for 27 years and worked as an assistant chief up until last month. He gained the position in Bend over 30 other applicants and five finalists, including three within the BPD.

Krantz arrives to Bend after months of local, state and national protests over police brutality, and his hiring has not been without controversy, which we explore during the interview.

Krantz has a range of experience, from leading a precinct in downtown Portland, to running the business affairs of the entire PPB. He also helped to form the PPB’s Latino Advisory Council in response to concerns that police would start enforcing immigration laws.

We asked some tough questions about his background, disciplinary record and oversight of a controversial incident involving a white supremacist groups and a member of the PPB. Here's a lightly edited version of our interview.

Source Weekly: How did you become interested in law enforcement?

Chief Mike Krantz: I think it was something actually something that I was interested in as a kid. I had a bike when I was about 12 that was my pride and joy it was my transportation mode it was everything to me. I didn't necessarily lock it up when I should have and a neighborhood kid stole it and I knew who the kid was. He was the neighborhood bully and I knew where the bike was. I basically had had my prize possession taken from me. My mom called the police and our local district officer came out in Portland and ultimately got the bike back for me. I thought that was awesome. Justice had prevailed.

SW: Was there a specific reason that you left the PPB and started pursing this job?

MK: I've been visiting Bend for at least 20 years. I had family that moved over and so we visited a lot. Every time I went over for the last 20 years I always thought ‘This place is cool with a good community.’ There’s a lot of outdoor stuff I like to do, water stuff… I'm a water bug. We initially thought someday we'll retire and move over there. Then about 10 years ago I was moving through the ranks in Portland. I was probably about a Lieutenant or so, and I thought, someday if that ever came open I'm going to put in for that position. Then when it did come open January or February this year, I had to put my money where my mouth was.

Then I learned more about what a quality police department there is here, and how connected they are with the community and the above-80 rankings of approval every year it gets with the community. That’s a really good foundation to start with.

I was not putting in for positions all over to see what I got. I only put in for Bend. It was the only place I wanted to go to and was willing to move for. It was a one-shot. The opportunity came up and I knew it wasn't going to come open again in my work lifetime. It was the time to jump.

SW: It sounds like you’ve heard a lot about Chief Porter’s officer wellness program and what the department has achieved through that. Are you supportive of that kind of approach?

MK: Absolutely. Understanding how well a police department, or any business for that matter, wants to take care of their employees and make them healthy and understands that their health is important for the type of customer service they provide; it all works together for their overall job satisfaction. How an employee sees an employer and values them I think really plays to what an employee is willing to do.

Overall, it is a real treat to be able to come to a department that has already valued that and continues to build on that foundation. It's a nationally known program; they've talked about it all over the country, so it was definitely an appeal and it will be something that I’m looking to continue to build and see how can we improve.

A lot of departments are implementing programs like this. Portland just implemented a wellness program that was somewhat based off the Bend model. How do we continue to be on that leading edge? How do we to continue to take care of employees so they can take care of the community in a healthier way? I’m 100% behind it and hopefully I can participate some of it, too.

SW: You have a pretty extensive resume of trainings. Are there any that stick out to you as particularly valuable?

MK: The trainings on the national level; it's an opportunity to meet and network with chiefs of police and other high-level executives from all over the country. When I have a question, I can reach out and have a connection in almost every state. There’s at least somebody I can talk to and ask, ‘Have you seen this? Have you experienced this? What have you done? Can you refer me to another agency in your state that has a similar policy?’

Having the ability to make those connections it really valuable in the law enforcement circle because we're all independent, based out of our communities.

SW: What were some of the highlights of your career in Portland?

MK: One of my favorite jobs was the commander of Central Precinct [downtown Portland] which I did for two years before being promoted to assistant chief. It’s the center of a lot of businesses, as well as the center of politics, both federal, state and local. It’s got the courthouse there, the intercept, entertainment districts, advocacy groups for social services and homelessness. Economic districts. There’s just such a variety all of the time. The opportunity to engage with a lot of different people, different groups, different kinds of perspectives.

The assistant chief of the business services branch was a learning opportunity for me which I valued. It definitely wasn’t as exciting as the commander of Central Precinct but it was an opportunity to learn something completely different around budgeting and fleet and personnel and recruiting and all that stuff that most people don’t get the opportunity to do in law enforcement.

SW: You mentioned solving problems with the community. How does this play into the current conversation around defunding the police? In the context of diverting funds into mental health and other social services?

MK: My personal position is that the community for a long time has not wanted to address these issues and we've seen it grow and grow and grow. Even in Bend, it's growing. On the state and national level, it's grown specifically on mental health, addiction, homelessness because of lack of overall community response and government response towards how to address these issues early on.

Now it has gotten to, well the police are out there, they're the government. When someone calls for some help the police show up and that hasn't always been our focus as law enforcement. But we're the only ones at the time for most of the communities that respond to that crisis calls even if it's not a crime.

But now, people don't want us to show up. So we're in this rock and a hard spot where someone has to respond to people in crisis and but most communities haven't yet set something up to have that done by social service agencies.

SW: Like the CAHOOTS program in Eugene…

MK: I'm a proponent of having something similar to where there's an alternate response when it’s not something that’s criminal and violent and it’s not something that needs a uniform police officer to show up. Or a partner response; there’s a huge benefit to have an officer partner with a mental health counselor, which is already happening in Bend. Bend put money towards the [Deschutes County] Stabilization Center; that’s a great investment. I think there should be a bigger focus around a community-based organization or government-based organization. However we model it that works for the community.

But I don’t think these different responses should be isolated in silos. The State of Oregon has not fully supported all the mental health and addiction needs of our communities, we’re going to have to continue to look at that and build. We’re out in the front of it; we see the needs of the community more than probably most people do. We’re a good front end piece to get people into the system… if there’s a system that exists for them to get help.

But in terms of defunding, there hasn’t been money coming in to law enforcement to do that role for a long time, it’s just been an added job, so a lot of the other roles of law enforcement fell off, and a lot of the other jobs that they should be doing such as law enforcement investigations.

SW: The Oregon Legislature recently passed a number of reforms including banning chokeholds for the most part. Where do you fall on some of these debates?

MK: I think the 8 Can’t Wait campaign is a reasonable approach to some of the policies. On chokeholds, Portland doesn’t teach them for restraint; I’ve never personally used them and I know that Bend PD does not either unless it’s a deadly force response. That’s were most police departments would fall. I don’t believe that we should completely ban them, because if I’m in a struggle for my life, and I need to be able to do whatever I need to do to get out of that struggle and stay alive.

SW: You’re inheriting a police force with which you have not had a relationship with in the past. That means you may not be aware of all the discipline issues that have gone on with other officers in the force. How do you plan to address this?

MK: Coming into a new agency and not being part of it will definitely be a challenge; it will be a very busy first three months. I’ll be getting access to policies. I will need full debrief on pending cases for discipline. But I need to be careful: just become someone new comes in shouldn’t really change a lot of outcomes of cases. It should be decided on by evidence and due process and [the officer’s] history of discipline and not the whim of a new chief.

There’s two different misconduct types I look for: was it simply a process that they just didn’t get right and need more education? I want to make employees the best community servants they can be, so if there was no harm and it’s obvious that someone didn’t have the policy or process right, that is of the mind and not the heart. But if people have continued the same behavior, we need to figure out a different path – if it is coming from the heart like excessive force or profile-type activity or bias-based policing, then we have to look deep to figure out the accountability process, and how it’s been handled historically.

SW: In the interest of transparency and accountability in our community, are there any issues of misconduct or discipline that we and the public need to be aware of in your background?

MK: I have never been disciplined, I have no sustained allegations of anything. You know in Portland we are very heavy on the accountability side. We send anything and everything that could potentially be a case to independent review or internal affairs division. “Sustained” means it’s actually something that occurred. I don’t think you’ll find many Portland Police officers who don’t have some sort of case referred. Community complaints come in all the time of everything we do.

SW: A local activist group, the Central Oregon PeaceKeepers have been calling to the public’s attention an incident that you may have had some association in Portland, where a member of the PPB that you oversaw was in contact with a white supremacist protest group. This police officer was accused of exchanging text messages that were “too friendly” with the protesters. This has been cleared up with a full investigation, but given that is has already become somewhat problematic for you in Bend, can you explain your side of the story on this one?

MK: I was not a part of it and we have to look at the fact that that case was fully investigated, very deeply, and there was no misconduct and it was a different Lieutenant. But what ultimately came out of that case, was the understanding that we had a very we had a unique program in Portland where when we have protests, no matter what the view is, we had someone reach out to them and try to at least have a connection for safety.

If they needed any sort of police assistance or the officers would tell them these are the expectations. You’re expected to follow all laws, you're expected to self-regulate. If you have problematic people you can call us. If you have people you know getting in your area committing crimes or violence, you can call us. And really just being a liaison. And that happens for every group in the city. We connect and reach out on every single event. What I think that ultimately showed is we had a program but it wasn't fully baked in the process of how we did things at the PPB. That was an opportunity for us to learn to do it better. Now we have specific designated demonstration liaison officers through our crisis negotiation team. We have a team of people who are really good at talking to people in really crisis situations.

SW: Is your plan to meet with as many groups and organizations and entities as you can throughout the start of your time here?

MK: Yes, I think part of the role of being chief of police is you’re up and out and connected and engaged with the community. I’ve done a lot of that in my previous experience and I enjoy that piece, so I think that’ll be one of my strengths here. I am open to meet with anybody who wants to meet with me, given some restrictions around time and expectations. Maybe we can alleviate some of the concerns or explain things. There’s not always going to be peace and harmony, but my job is to help build that trust. I want to have some listening session at some point to hear people’s concerns to learn about anything specific in Bend I should be aware of.

Another concern I heard was that I was going to come here and I’ll automatically start ordering tear gas on peaceful protest crowds. And that’s obviously ridiculous and not going to happen. A peaceful protest is a protected right and I take that seriously. I don’t care what a message is at an event, it’s my job as a law enforcement professional to remain neutral.

This article has been updated to include additional questions and answers from our interview with Krantz.

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