By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes
From an early age, Bev Birr knew she wanted to be a police officer.
Until she saw firsthand just what the job would entail, that is.
So the dream was altered just a bit: Birr worked at police departments, just not as an officer.
For the past 25 years Birr has worked at the Keizer Police Department, becoming just the second person in KPD history to reach that milestone.
Birr was feted for her achievement by current police chief John Teague – himself a longtime KPD veteran – during the March 3 Keizer City Council meeting.
“Ms. Birr is part of the foundation of the police department, keeping things running while uniformed personnel handle acute problems,” Teague said. “Among other tasks, Ms. Birr handles court-ordered criminal record expungements, assists in vehicle-related paperwork, enters our data into the Law Enforcement Data System and, importantly, provides remarkable customer service.”
Teague and others from the department were on hand when Birr received a standing ovation at the council meeting.
Birr got her associates degree in law enforcement from Chemeketa Community College in 1973. When she started, it seemed she was fulfilling a dream.
“I had wanted to be in police work since I was 5 years old,” Birr recalled with a smile. “As I got older, I realized I wanted to be more into law enforcement. I felt I wanted to be a police officer. I went through the training and thought I’m not sure I wanted to be an officer.”
That realization came while in school.
“I had planned to be a police officer at Chemeketa,” she said. “But it was too intense. It wasn’t for me. You also have to remember, there were not too many women officers back then. There were none on patrol at the time. Now you see a lot of women patrol officers. That was back in the dark ages.”
At age 19 in 1973, Birr became a dispatcher matron in Stayton. She would feed prisoners in the two-person cell food and help search females who were arrested.
After two years, Birr became a sworn-in deputy with Linn County. She switched to a civilian dispatcher role at Salem Police Department in 1977.
“I had decided a long time ago patrol was not what I wanted to do,” Birr said. “You realize what is required of you to be an officer. That wasn’t for me. But I was intrigued by dispatching.”
After eight years in Salem, Birr took a couple of years off to raise her son. In 1988, then-Keizer police chief Charles Stull offered Birr a part-time job as records keeper.
“That lasted about six months when the chief said he needed me to be full-time,” Birr recalled. “Chief Stull offered me the full-time job and I took it. There was only one full-time records keeper at the time and they needed another. I really liked the agency and I’ve been here ever since.”
Over the years, Birr and her co-workers have filled various roles.
“I do police support services,” Birr said. “I’ve worked in property and evidence. I’ve done almost all the different little things. I’ve worked front counter, property and evidence, records. I have done the gamut of the record stuff. Now I do the towed vehicle files, driving while suspended and DUII (driving under the influence of intoxicants). Plus I’m the back-up receptionist. My job says duties as assigned. We all work together as far as our jobs. It’s not just one thing. I help with everything that I’m asked to.”
All these years later, Birr still enjoys working at the KPD.
“I have always felt like it’s a comfortable, close town,” she said. “There’s a lot of pride in Keizer. It shows in the department. There’s a lot of pride to work for the city.”
Birr noted Rita Powers, Jeff Kuhns and John Troncoso are all approaching their 25-year KPD anniversaries
“It’s neat to see,” Birr said. “There’s a reason for that. We enjoy the city and the department. There’s a reason for all of us being here that long.”
Birr looks forward to her co-workers being honored for 25 years.
“I’ll be there when Rita gets her plaque. And I’ll go to Jeff’s, even though he didn’t come to mine, darn it,” she said with a laugh.
Speaking of plaques, Birr didn’t mind getting hers nearly a year late. After all, it’s become almost expected.
“My 20-year plaque was a year late,” she said. “It’s okay. I think it’s wonderful they recognize us for our service. I never got that at other agencies.”
Birr was honored to see so many familiar faces at her recognition ceremony.
“It was so touching,” she said. “I felt appreciated for all my years. It was wonderful they showed their respect to me like that. I really didn’t know what was going to happen that night. I had no idea until that night I am the second person here to reach the 25-year milestone. Time just goes by so fast. You go to work, you do your job, you do your life. Before you know it, 25 years have gone by. Where did the time go?”