Citizens Question Local Law Enforcement

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EUGENE, Ore. — There have been several events the last few months in Eugene and Springfield that have people thinking twice about local law enforcement.

After hearing about what’s been going on these last few months, most of the citizens KEZI 9 News spoke to Thursday were definitely a little less trusting of these civil servants, and some officers said they’re not surprised.

First, it was the missing items at the Eugene Police Department’s Property Crime Unit. Then in Springfield, a video showing former Chief Jerry Smith kissing an employee came to light. Not long after, a longtime Sergeant filed a lawsuit claiming retaliation for whistleblowing.

And most recently, on Wednesday, an EPD officer pleaded guilty to sex abuse crimes. It was difficult news for many.

“Anytime a public official is found guilty of wrongdoing, you know they’re put on a pedestal. It’s different from a common citizen who gets accused of a something,” said Springfield resident Dan Vierck.

Local law enforcement officers couldn’t agree more.

“We strive to be the most ethical police agency police possible, and so when something like this happens, it’s upsetting and it’s very disappointing and it makes me angry,” said Pete Kerns, Eugene Police Department Chief.

Staff at the Eugene Police Department said they expect people to question them, and they’re doing the same thing themselves, using every incident as an opportunity as a chance to prevent it all from happening ever again.

“When a problem comes to our attention, we address it affirmatively,” Kerns said.

And they hope people see that. And some do, encouraging folks to not allow these events to color their perception of law enforcement forever.

“That happens. Stuff like that just happens. It’s an organization full of people, all different kinds of people. And that’s just the way humanity is,” said Eugene resident Lee Norris.

KEZI 9 News also reached out to the Springfield Police Department, but representatives said they couldn’t comment at this time due to the pending litigation.

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