LETTER: Rallying cry?

(Letter sent by Chief John Teague to the Keizer mayor and city councilors. Published with permission.)


The first of the ancient cardinal virtues was prudence, practical wisdom. You exhibited prudence last night in your hesitancy to publicly read John Morgan’s letter. His allegation that Keizer’s police officers once rallied around a racial slur, exciting themselves to beat people, shocked your conscience. I will say this up front: at best, John was careless with his words.

Benny Williams was correct that “Black lives matter!” is a rallying cry, a statement around which people rally to put forth their collective idea and energy. That Keizer’s police officers ever rallied, even in jest, to beat people is simply untrue. I worked for Keizer PD throughout the ‘90s. I was a union officer in the early years and promoted to sergeant in 1994, and I was involved enough to have known of any collective motivation among the officers. We never rallied, much less to assault immigrants.

John may argue that he intended to attribute his statement to Chief Stull alone. If so, again, he chose his words carelessly. Stull was so alienated from the rest of the department that he couldn’t rally even a handful of police officers to his side, and any exclamation that he might’ve begun with “Let’s” was a non-starter. That he quickly developed a hostile workplace and had no support among the officers is clear in the Park report, the report that led to his firing. The report was written in May of 1997. Nowhere in its 113 pages is there any mention of the alleged rallying cry. Neither is it mentioned in the 30 pages of John Morgan’s and Wally Mull’s co-authored termination memo to the council that met on June 30, 1997. Quite frankly, the police officers never rallied around the idea or otherwise tolerated the notion that they should beat anybody.

Having said all of that, we were not without our sins: like all police officers everywhere, we believed the academics when they told us that the work we did could never affect crime; subsequently, we policed without any thought to the consequences of enforcement. That has changed markedly—rather than only fighting badness, we now cultivate goodness—but even in the ‘90s the men and women who policed Keizer were good people, intolerant of immorality in their work and among their members. That has not changed.

(John Teague is Chief of Police for the city of Keizer.)