Police Chief John Teague retiring after 10 years

He has no ego. He is a man of deep faith. He is intelligent and well read. All those traits have served him well as Keizer’s police chief for the past 10 years. Chief John Teague is retiring on Sept. 30, closing out a 34 year law enforcement career.

“Somebody once told me that chiefs of police are good for about 10 years. And that was just an offhanded statement, but I paid attention to it,” said Teague. 

When he was hired as Keizer’s police chief in 2013, city manager Chris Eppley asked him to give the city 10 years. And he did.

Teague acknowledges he is one of Oregon’s oldest cops. “There are not many of us in our 60s anymore,” he said. “At some point you kind of got to get out of the way.”

A graduate of Texas A & M University, Teague received his Master’s degree from Western Oregon University, where he did a paper on evidence-based policing, which he said “at the end of the day it is problem-based policing. And it works.”

While attending a presentation at the police academy, he took to heart a speech about policing that is evidence based. 

“The speaker started talking about preventing crime from happening in the first place. And I never thought in those terms,” Teague remembered.

He began to understand how evidence-based policing works and why it works and what can be done to make things better.

He added that agencies should put resources where they will do the most good. 

“You’re going to have to pay more attention to that—and it works. These guys (Keizer police officers) were hungry for it when I came here 10 years ago,” the chief said.

When he took the job of chief in 2013, the Keizer Police Department was comprised mostly of veteran cops. 

“They were desirous of an occupation and work that is rewarding; that’s meaningful, that’s lasting. Problem-oriented policing provides that. Merely chasing crime does not provide that,” he said. “There’s a lot of frustration around how (cases are) prosecuted and the penalties. Prosecutors are overwhelmed and the jails are already full of people. You’re just not going to get a lot of reward out of that.”

Teague’s philosophy of policing was influenced by Herman Goldstein, a noted criminologist and legal scholar, who developed the problem-oriented policing model. Problem-oriented policing is a policing strategy that involves the identification and analysis of specific crime and disorder problems in order to develop effective response strategies. It requires police to identify and target underlying problems that can lead to crime.

Teague became a cop by happenstance. “I had a friend who was a cop in Salem, and we had mutual friends, an older couple. He was suggesting I should be a cop. I had no desire to be a cop. This job came open at Keizer, this older couple thought I should, and of all things, they paid for the application for me, $13. I applied and a few weeks later I was offered a job. I told my wife, ‘Hey, let’s do this. It’ll be interesting,’” 

That was 1989.

One of the hallmarks of Teague’s tenure as police chief has been community policing. 

“It’s a misnomer to call what we do community policing. Community policing is just a tactic under the greater overarching rubric of problem-oriented policing. And unfortunately that’s lost on most people. It’s lost on most police chiefs. It’s too bad because they’re very different ways of doing business,” he said.

At Western Oregon they don’t have an evidence-based policing track, so Teague came to it primarily through self-study, but the school gave him the resources to do that.

His faith is important to Teague. He originally came to Oregon to attend seminary school, but it taught a thin slice of Protestantism that he no longer holds.

“I think the scriptures and the gospel are much more expansive than this particular slice prescribed them to be. It was an excellent seminary as far as teaching,” Teague said.

Teague expounds that most problems are easily solved. “They (people) make them way too difficult. I don’t have the sympathy for it. There’s a great line,” he said.

He then recalled the first line of Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina: “Happy families are all alike. Every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. “

Asked how his faith has shaped his law enforcement career, Teague said: “I don’t know that it’s so much my faith as my worldview, which of course is informed by my faith. I see the world as given to death and entropy. It is all winding down, apart from putting information or energy into it. It is going to wind down into a bad place. And what that means is we’ve got to be putting the right inputs into what we do and into our relationships, or they’re going to degrade.”

Which in a way, reflects what is happening today.

“Thirty years ago when we kicked off community policing we had volunteers all over the city, hundreds. These days you can’t get 10,” said Teague.

“One of the reasons why community policing doesn’t work is, because under the nominal community policing model, the cops are responsible to identify problems and solve them. The problem with that is they don’t have the time, the resources, or the