As clergy committed to peace and justice in Central Oregon, our sacred texts and values call us to walk in the footsteps of prophetic communities that did not rest until all were truly free. At the foundation of our faith traditions is this truth: All people are imbued with worth, value, dignity and a right to be free.
Out of that conviction, we are committed to listening to the voices of people of color in our city. So we have deep concerns about the process that led to Officer Mike Krantz’s hiring as Bend’s new police chief.
In the midst of a national cry to reshape America’s ethic of policing, Officer Krantz’s hiring seems to disregard the strong preferences of community organizations in Bend, especially among people of color. He comes to our city from the Portland Police Bureau, a department with a reputation for protecting officers in incidents of police brutality toward people of color and a history of using extreme measures against unarmed protesters. We sincerely hope he arrives in Bend with a different ethos than the one in which he was trained.
We believe Bend could be a model city — for our state and our country — in adopting policies that move us toward racial equity, especially those outlined by Reimagine Oregon (www.reimagineoregon.org). For example, could Bend be among the first cities in Oregon to ban police use of pepper spray and flash-bang grenades, thus paving the way for more innovative approaches elsewhere?
We say this without being flippant: This is a “come to Jesus” moment for police departments. Bend can either take that cue — listening to its residents with creativity and heart — or we can ignore this national moment and risk seeing the same violence we’ve seen in other cities. As our favorite preacher once said, “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”
In the wake of violent tensions between civil rights protesters and local police departments, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., wrote those words in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail in 1963. It was addressed to the white clergy of that city. Today, we aspire to stand in solidarity with his legacy as it takes shape in the Black Lives Matter movement in all its expressions, especially here in Bend. They are giving us the courage to say that we cannot wait any longer; we must walk “with a sense of great urgency toward the promised land of racial justice.”
We imagine a world in which our neighborhoods and city are sanctuaries for people of all races, identities and origins. We imagine a world in which faithful and vocal resistance to state policies can be heard and honored, rather than met with rubber bullets. We imagine a world in which “policing” means embodying a presence of community care, health and healing.
City Manager King: We pray that you share this vision alongside us, even as we lament the blind spots in this process. We hope that you, City Council, and Bend PD can join us in the hard work of examining citywide systems of power, law and order for areas of latent white supremacy and outright racism that cause such blind spots.
Officer Krantz: If the vision we are casting — one that sees people as neighbors to love rather than “rioters” to be confronted, that values their freedom to peacefully resist over the securing of state power — if this vision aligns with your own, and you want to cast visions alongside those who cry for justice and peace in this city, we commit to working with you toward those ends.
Bend community: Now is the time for us to move from support to solidarity and to disrupt the pseudo-peace of the status quo in order for all to be free and safe. Co-creating a Bend that is marked by justice, interdependence, and solidarity will take deeper reserves of resilience and resolve. It is our deepest honor to accompany you as we walk this road together.