Last week I recorded a podcast interview with Chief Jim Porter of the Bend Police Department in Oregon. It was our intention to release the podcast as part of our premium podcast series. After finishing the interview I changed my mind. What Chief Porter had to say was just too important not to distribute as widely as possible On April 18, we will be distributing the podcast free of charge to all LRIS customers even if they don’t subscribe to our premium podcasts.
We all know what’s in the background of a law enforcement career, though we don’t talk about it as much as we should. Elevated rates for suicide, premature death post-retirement, an aggravated level of stress-related diseases, high divorce rates, and in the modern world, an inevitable emotional reaction to the seeming drumbeat of criticism heaped on officers who are only trying to do their best for their communities.
Chief Porter described how a focus on the emotional and physical health of a police department can transform the morale, productivity, and job satisfaction of officers. In the five years he has held his position, Chief Porter has implemented a number of innovative programs designed to improve the well-being of officers. Among those programs are (1) a focus on the ergonomics of police equipment, vehicles, and protective gear that has led to a change in both protective vests and patrol vehicles, (2) the availability of on-duty workout time, (3) a free and confidential wellness screening followed, if necessary, by confidential treatment, (4) stretching exercises and yoga at the start of the shift, (5) a focus on invigorating the police spouse program, providing training and counseling, (6) a mindfulness or decompression period at the end of the shift so officers don’t take the workday home with them, (7) a change in the patrol shift, and (8) much, much more. As Chief Porter immediately sought to engage the Bend Police Association after assuming his job, all of this was done as a result of cooperative labor-management meetings.
I know, you’re saying, this sounds like something from Oregon. But Chief Porter isn’t who you might imagine when you think “yoga?”. He’s a 36-year police veteran who’s worked his way through the ranks. He has served as served as a patrolman, narcotics detective, patrol sergeant, traffic team sergeant, lieutenant, captain, and on the regional SWAT team for 16 years. He has supervised both the multi-agency Central Oregon Drug Enforcement team and the Central Oregon regional SWAT team. He is a graduate from the FBI National Academy and has trained and operationally deployed with various law enforcement agencies and SWAT teams, including in Europe. He is a veteran who has been awarded the United States Air Force Achievement Medal, the Medal of Valor from Oregon Police Officers Association and the Chief of Police Commendation Award.
Best of all, what Chief Porter describes works. When you listen to the podcast you’ll hear about the City’s anonymous surveys of its police employees, and how they’ve turned around since 2014. Morale in the Police Department has soared, trust in supervisors has tripled, and the number of officers who would recommend the Bend Police Department for employment is at an all-time high. Workers’ compensation injuries in the Department have fallen precipitously and customer satisfaction (as measured by citizen surveys) has increased dramatically.
When I concluded the interview with Chief Porter I remarked to Marc Fuller, who runs LRIS’s day-to-day operations, that the interview was the most important podcast we’ve done. Take a listen on April 18. It’s on us.