Interim Springfield police chief pledges to address demands for change

Andrew Shearer said his lack of familiarity with Springfield could be viewed as asset, allowing him to approach leadership with fresh eyes and a new perspective.

Posted: May 28, 2021 12:33 PM

SPRINGFIELD, Ore. – Springfield Interim Police Chief Andrew Shearer has officially been on the job for five days. While it’s a temporary position, the new chief is looking to make some lasting changes.

In his first interview with the media since his swearing in Monday, Shearer said he didn’t have much knowledge of the Springfield Police Department before taking the job.

“I didn't really have much of an opinion about it one way or the other,” Shearer said.

Shearer, who retired as the assistant chief of the Portland Police Bureau last year, said he did do some internet research on the department. It didn’t take long to find the headlines about expensive lawsuits and settlements, and the still-unexplained departure of former Chief Richard Lewis who retired while on paid administrative leave. Despite the bad press, Shearer said that didn’t make him less interested in the job.

“I have never shied away from challenging opportunities,” Shearer said. “When I see headlines like that… I see those as opportunities to be able to hopefully step in and identify areas for growth and help both the reputation of the police department and support the men and women that have taken an oath to protect this community.”

The reputation of the department has come under fire multiple times, most recently from a former female recruit who alleged an environment of harassment and discrimination. Former Chief Lewis was accused of mishandling the situation, which involved sex between the female police recruit and two veteran officers. Lewis fired the recruit, but not the officers who allegedly had sex with her.

Other than the people Shearer met this week, he said he has no prior relationships with anyone in the department. He has never met his predecessor, but said he would like to meet Lewis someday.

Shearer said his lack of familiarity with Springfield could be viewed as asset, allowing him to approach leadership with fresh eyes and a new perspective.

“Chief Shearer brings the experience and fresh perspective needed to help us as we transition,” said City Manager Nancy Newton, when announcing Shearer’s hiring.

Newton said Springfield is focused on selecting a new police chief who can meet the city’s policing needs now and into future.

According to the city, Shearer began his career in 1992 with the Portland Police Bureau. He worked a variety of patrol, investigative and administrative assignments and rose through the ranks of officer, sergeant, lieutenant, captain, commander, and assistant chief of police, prior to his retirement in 2020.

While he’s contracted to remain chief for between six months and a year, Shearer said that doesn’t mean he’s not committed to putting in the work.

“I owe it to this community and the men and women of this organization to give it my full attention and be 100% committed into growing this agency and helping it get to where I think we all want it to be,” Shearer said.

The first order of business, according to Shearer, is a deep dive into the department’s culture, policies, procedures and best practices. Shearer said he wants to see if they align with what other exemplary agencies are doing, and upgrade them if not.

Independent reports have suggested there is room for improvement. A report released in March by a former Sacramento police chief gave Springfield police a mixed review on how it handled a protest that turned violent in Thurston last year. There were three instances where the report recommended the department thoroughly review the use of force against demonstrators. The report also noted that several officers at the demonstration "were not adequately trained or equipped for this type of event."

Shearer said he’ll be looking at the agency’s use-of-force policies and its crowd control techniques.

“As an agency, I want to best prepare the men and women of this organization to deal with those successfully,” Shearer said.

Shearer said there are changes the community has demanded, and he is listening.

“I'm promising to this community that I will do everything in my power to make changes to this organization that put us in line with what this community demands of us,” Shearer said.

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