Mike Krantz has been in the middle of a move from Portland to Bend since July 3, his last day with the Portland Police Bureau, where he worked for nearly three decades and rose to the rank of assistant chief.
Much has happened to Portland and the bureau since then. On July 4, federal officers arrived outside the city’s federal courthouse to control protesters, though state officials have blamed them for inflaming tensions and injuring and arresting dozens of people.
“I haven’t been there so I’m looking at this from the outside-in,” Krantz said.
He hasn’t entirely avoided controversy. When he was named Bend’s next police chief at the end of June, Krantz upset racial justice activists who fear he will bring a big city style of policing to a small town.
They say he isn’t interested in what they have to say and question his stance on the use of tear gas.
Krantz said Thursday he will meet with local protest groups as soon as he can. His first day on the job is Aug. 10.
“The problem is I’m not there yet and I haven’t started working,” he said. “As soon as I get down there, I’d like to start building relationships and hearing what they have to talk about.”
In choosing Jim Porter’s replacement, City Manager Eric King employed a selection process praised by many as inclusive. But Krantz’s selection was met with skepticism and anger by some community members, including Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel, who recommended that Krantz not be hired.
“At the time when thousands of people in our community took to the streets to demand improvements to the criminal justice system, hiring someone from the Portland Police Bureau, a department that is under court oversight for excessive use of force and is presently gassing protesters, disrespected them and their views,” Hummel said. “That having been said, Krantz was the choice of the city manager and I’m committed to working with him to make our community as safe and just as possible.”
Hummel said he and Krantz had a 20-minute phone call last this week that was “frank and productive.”
It wasn’t just Hummel who preferred hiring a local candidate to lead Bend Police Department. The three internal finalists were popular among community members who took part in forums during the hiring process, according to feedback sheets obtained through a records request. They also show concern with Krantz’s Portland connection among Bend Police officers who participated in a group interview with the finalists.
Though protests have roiled the Rose City since the death of George Floyd in May, violence and arrests have been largely avoided in mainly white Bend.
Kerstin Arias, co-founder of the Central Oregon Diversity Project, doesn’t want Krantz’s arrival to change that.
Answers cause alarm
Arias was alarmed at several answers by Krantz in an Embrace Bend meeting over Zoom. He was asked if he would forbid the use of tear gas on protesters. He didn’t immediately commit to a yes or no answer.
“I don’t agree with this man,” Arias said. “Any time he was asked about people of color or injustice, he completely went around it and kept saying he treats humans like humans.”
Krantz told The Bulletin the tear gas question is an example of not wanting to commit to positions before actually starting his new job.
“It’s difficult to make a sweeping policy decision when I’m not even an employee yet,” he said. “The bigger picture is, I don’t think tear gas would ever be used in Bend. Tear gas is not a tool for peaceful protests. It’s something completely different.”
Oregon law was recently changed to restrict tear gas use to only situations that are declared riots and lives are considered to be at risk. Krantz says he’s open to further restricting the use of tear gas and other weapons if that’s what the public supports.
“Nothing is off the table,” Krantz said. “I’m coming in with an open slate and an open mind, ready to listen to the community and the members of Bend Police Department and the electeds. I’m willing to do whatever’s necessary to build on the foundation that’s already there.”
Arias’ preferred candidate for chief was Bend Lt. Brian Beekman, whom she said was respectful and responsive over many contacts with her group.
“He called us anytime we had an event and let us know that he’d be there to protect us, and to let him know if we felt we were in any danger,” she said. “He made it very clear that his job was to protect and serve.”
Last week, a lengthy interview with Porter was featured in the Frankfurt, Germany newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine calling Porter a “role model in Washington, D.C.”
Krantz said he knows he has big shoes to fill.
“The reason I wanted to come to Bend is because it’s a great community and it’s a great police department, and I think I can continue to build on it and make it better,” he said.