A Bend Police Department officer will be investigated for allegedly violating policy by wearing a keychain connected to a far-right group while in uniform on Saturday.
Bend Chief Mike Krantz did not identify the employee, though Cpl. Josh Spano is the officer seen in a photograph circulating on Reddit and Facebook. Attached to the front of Spano’s service vest is an item reading “molon labe” in Greek lettering, a phrase associated with the far-right Three Percenters militia.
The “molon labe” item and its letters appear to be larger than Spano’s name tag on his vest.
“I’m aware of the allegations posted around social media regarding one of our employees displaying an item that was inconsistent with our uniform, an item believed to be supportive of extremist ideologies” Krantz told The Bulletin.
Spano, 35, told The Bulletin the item in question is a keychain he has used while on duty throughout his 13-year career. He said he wears it to honor the oath of enlistment he took when he joined the military, and his fellow soldiers. He said before the recent uproar, no one had ever said anything about it.
He denied being part of the Three Percenters or any other anti-government group.
“I support none of it,” he said. “And if it wasn’t for people defending against that we’d have a whole lot more disorder right now than we already do.”
Spano said if the internal investigation determines his keychain is inappropriate to wear on duty, he will switch to using it for the keyring for his personal vehicle.
Spano was hired by the Medford Police Department in 2008, according to Oregon police records. In 2015, he transferred to the Bend Police Department and was promoted to corporal in 2019.
He is a former Army medic who served in combat in Iraq.
The Ancient Greek phrase “molon labe,” meaning “come and take them,” is often attributed to the Spartan King Leonidas when the Persian King called on the Spartan soldiers to lay down their arms. It has more recently been co-opted by pro-gun and extremist anti-government groups.
It’s also favored among some in law enforcement. Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin drew attention to it in 2015 when he set the phrase as his Facebook profile picture.
According to the Bend Police policy handbook, Bend officers are forbidden from wearing unauthorized items on their uniforms, as well as openly supporting political and social causes while on duty.
The officer uniform is meant to identify the wearer as a law enforcement officer and also a source of assistance in an emergency, the handbook states.
Krantz said ideologies that advocate for the violent overthrow of the U.S. government do not fall within the range of acceptable political beliefs an officer may hold.
“We stress there is no place in policing for extremism or violent ideologies,” Krantz said. “Those beliefs are incompatible with law enforcement. … Again, I don’t know if that’s what was going on in this case.”
Mayor Sally Russell said she’s aware of the matter and is glad human resources is looking into it.
“We should be cautious and not too quick to judge,” she said.
Spano recently applied to work at the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office. He requested a meeting with Sheriff Shane Nelson and met with him in late 2020, the office confirmed.