Case Study 1

Bend Police Department

Strengthening a long-existing culture of innovation and community engagement. 



Bend, Oregon is a city comprising about thirty-three square miles in central Oregon. The largest city in central Oregon and one of the fastest growing cities in America, Bend’s population has grown from approximately 52,000 in 2000 to over 100,000 in 2019.2 Over 92 percent of Bend’s population is white, and approximately nine percent are Hispanic or Latino.3

Bend is served by the Bend Police Department (BPD).4  The BPD is divided into four divisions including support, business, patrol, and investigation. As of 2020, approximately 100 sworn officers and over 30 professional staff worked for the BPD under the supervision of Police Chief Jim Porter, who served as chief from January 2014 to April 2020.5  In August of 2020, Chief Michael Krantz, was selected to lead the department.

Since the release of the 21st Century Policing Task Force Report, the BPD has adopted a variety of its key concepts. The department’s 2015-2020 strategic plan pursued several improvements congruent with the Report’s recommendations, including increasing trust, transparency, employee safety and wellness, community engagement, and technology.6  Building on BPD’s long-existing culture of innovation and increasing focus on community engagement, the BPD continued to regularly survey community sentiment and has tracked increasing community trust in the department over recent years. The BPD has also continued to emphasize employee wellness, implementing several innovative programs that have been nationally recognized as promising practices for law enforcement agencies.7

1. Unless otherwise noted, information in this case study was derived from interviews and focus groups with Bend Police Department and City of Bend personnel, and Bend community members, conducted from November 2020 through January 2021.
2. See also:

Pillar 1

Building Trust & Legitimacy

Based on the interviews conducted with a selection of BPD members, over recent years, the BPD has prioritized establishing trust and legitimacy both internally among staff and externally with the community they serve. As recommended by the Report, the BPD conducts regular community surveys to track the level of trust their community has in the department.

 In 2017 and 2019, the BPD collaborated with Portland State University to conduct surveys on perceptions of safety and BPD performance, which were used to help the city and BPD identify community issues and inform future priorities and budgets. The surveys found significant increases in respondents’ assessments of BPD’s community engagement efforts and level of trust in the department from 2017 to 2019. By 2019, over 80 percent of respondents reported having confidence in the Bend police and reported that Bend police are trustworthy.8 The BPD has used these and other internal surveys to inform strategic planning, identifying emerging challenges and future goals to address community expectations of service and support the wellbeing of employees.9

In interviews with the NPF assessment team, some department and community members recognized the selection and hiring process of new BPD members as one means to ensure recruits will support and expand on the department’s existing culture around trust, respect, and community-oriented service provision. In addition to testing and background checks, BPD recruits undergo a thorough interview process that aims to identify applicants’ approaches to service and interaction with other people. By emphasizing values of trust and respect from interview panels to personnel evaluations and award ceremonies, BPD leadership has sought to instill these values throughout the department’s culture.


Pillar 2

Policy & Oversight

Over the years, the BPD has continued to internally review and update their policies based on legislative changes as well as city council and community goals. In recent months, under Chief Krantz, the BPD has also begun to expand transparency and community involvement in police planning and policy development. All of BPD’s policies can now be found on their website.10 The BPD is also redesigning their chief’s advisory council to diversify and expand the role of community members in providing policy review and direct input to the department.

Pillar 3

Technology & Media

The BPD has made progress in the technology realm in recent years, developing a steering committee for technology and providing officers with key tools such as GPS-enabled mobile data terminals (MDTs) and cell phones. The department also has an established social media presence, able to communicate with the public on news, incidents, and department values.11  Still, several members recognized areas of ongoing improvement in technology and social media presence, particularly as Bend continues its expansive growth. While the department has considered attaining body worn cameras (BWCs) for many years, given the technology’s cost and challenges with data storage, the department had not sought to purchase BWCs until 2020. Most notably, the BPD has implemented an unmanned aerial system (UAS) program. The department collaborates with and trains other departments in the region on professional uses of UAS systems to support police operations.12  One BPD member reported that while a few community concerns emerged regarding the program, communicating that the department only uses the devices for specific calls has improved community support. Bend’s UASs have supported situational awareness and officer safety while pursuing armed suspects as well as search and rescue operations.13

11. See also:
13. See also:

Pillar 4

Community Policing & Crime Reduction

BPD members report a long history of community policing as a philosophy of working with the community in partnership to solve problems and interact in non-enforcement ways. As one member described, Bend has a “small town feeling of service, but we are not really a small town.”14  As a growing city, Bend thus retains a small community feel. Some members described that officers are expected to attend events if they are occurring in their district. In 2017, the BPD implemented a Community Enhancement Program (CEP), which incentivizes department members to increase contacts with community groups and youth and improve communication with the public.

To gauge an agency’s community policing and outreach efforts, it is essential to ask the community for their perspective and experience. In that vein, the NPF team reached out to the Bend community to get feedback. Several community members reported having positive and constructive experiences with the department, who was perceived as very open to community input and involving the community in their problem-solving strategies.

Insights from Community Interviews

Overall, the community responses the NPF assessment team gathered suggested a generally positive perception of the BPD, and several residents were cognizant and appreciative of the department’s history of community policing efforts. However, Bend is not immune to the racial tension commonplace in most US cities, which has impacted the overall level of trust that the Bend community has on the BPD.

Noticeable Changes in Tactical Responses

One member noted that, overall, the BPD has had a history of working well with the community and enforcing procedurally just principles, however, the tense climate of the past Summer has impacted the way in which BPD enforces the law, “We have seen a change in the tactical approach, more enforcement oriented, with the protests that we’ve had. I think it comes from a place of safety, but it’s a double-edge sword as well because the department wants to be collaborative, supportive, and solution-based but some people do not think that is the right perspective”. Moreover, the member noted that the BPD has come under recent scrutiny due to the change of police chief in August of 2020, which coincided with local protests. For example, during a recent incident with ICE, in which a community group blocked ICE’s trucks for hours, a SWAT team came in to break up that protest dressed in fatigues. This led to apprehension from the public, who associated this militarized response with the new chief, who was on his second day on the job. The chief later reported that those officers went in to break the protest after a training, and therefore were in the training uniform, 16 but the apprehension had already settled in.

Guardian Vs. Warrior

When asked about ‘guardian’ vs. ‘warrior’ concepts, and how the BPD falls on that spectrum, the NPF assessment team received a range of responses from community representatives. One member felt that the BPD was certainly operating under a guardian mentality. Another member felt that the BPD held a balance between the two, enforcing the law strong-handedly when needed, but that in situations that warranted a softer approach, particularly when responding to mental health calls, they operated with a guardian mindset. Other members felt that a guardian mindset meant that protection is equally given to all citizens, and that there were clear racial disparities in the way that the BPD handled situations that would not be congruent with a guardian mindset. To illustrate that point, one member noted the disproportionate way in which that BPD officers handled a Black Lives Matter protester in comparison to pro-Trump rallyist in the Summer of 2020.17


One concern discussed by some community members focused on the issue of accountability. A community member stated that no police department can be fully trusted if dishonest officers continue to be in charge, “the BPD culture is shaped by its chief executive officers and these have consistently “come up through the ranks” or, in other terms, been promoted by a good old boy system of succession”, some community members felt that such a “typical” system of promotion perpetuates an organizational culture that does not align with the community’s values nor promotes transparency and accountability.

Racial Tensions

Some community members also felt that the racial tensions between communities of color and the BPD are undoubtedly present in Bend, and whilst Bend’s majority White residents may hold mostly positive opinions about the department, the same cannot be generalized to its non-White residents. A member felt that until the BPD promotes command staff that represents and understands Bend’s communities of color, not much improvement in those particular police-community relationships will happen.

When asked if they have perceived a change in policing practices over time, one member stated that there has been a positive change, “There’s been growth in the hiring of patrol officers to keep up with the demand. That growth in numbers has translated to growth in community relationships too because now there is more presence to interact with the community”. Another member had a less positive answer, “It hasn’t gotten worse. But it’s still unsatisfactory to people of color”. Another member felt that, historically, the Bend community has trusted and valued the BPD, but that current events, the media, and the national distrust for the police institution has hampered some of that local trust. Another member noted that there have been notable positive changes, but that not all community members empathize with how difficult the policing job is.

14. NPF assessment team interview with Bend Police Department member, November 23, 2020.
15. Taylor, Ted and Roberts, Heather. Feds retrieve 2 men detained by ICE in Bend after protesters block transport buses. Central Oregon Daily News.

Pillar 5

Training & Education

BPD members noted a prioritization of training within the department and advancements in certain areas of training in recent years, such as on crisis intervention, de-escalation, and implicit bias. Some members noted that BPD training has become much more scenario-based, with scenarios adapted from real police incidents.

The NPF assessment team also met with members of partnering organizations that conduct or assist the BPD with trainings. Overall, they expressed positive perceptions on the advancements the BPD has made in de-escalation and crisis intervention training (CIT), in which almost all officers are fully trained in. It was also noted that the level of awareness and understanding on issues related to homelessness, substance use, and mental health have improved department wide.

Pillar 6

Officer Wellness & Safety

For years the TPD has cultivated officer safety and wellness offerings, and they have continued to grow over the last five years. Recognized nationally by the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, the TPD’s behavioral science unit (BSU) provides several services for the overall health and well-being of sworn and professional staff and their family members. BSU has provided counseling services, referrals, and peer support, and have organized police family events. As police suicides have increased across the country, in 2020 the TPD held trainings around mental health and suicide prevention, with a command staff member attending each class to reinforce the value leadership places on employee wellbeing.


Challenges & Next Steps for Policing 


Community Service Role and Officer Wellness Improvement

Boston PD members identified several challenges for policing, not necessarily specific to Bend. One issue is figuring out the role of law enforcement as well as other parts of government in addressing and responding to certain types of societal issues like mental health, substance use, or homelessness. Others mentioned an ongoing need for police members to continue to examine, reflect, and improve on their professional provision of service to the community, whether its better understanding the role of bias in individual interactions or continuing to improve existing wellness programming to be effective for staff. In this spirit of continual improvement, some interviewees mentioned further opportunities for growth in Bend’s community engagement, particularly with underserved and minority communities; diversity in recruitment; and police-community communication and transparency.

Continued Improvement

Data-informed Strategic Planning and Reflections

The BPD’s adoption of 21CPTF concepts highlight this culture of reflection and ongoing improvement as well as the importance of using research, data collection, and analysis to inform changes and future priorities. Even as a relatively small agency, through regular community and police department surveys, department leadership has been able to measure success and developed and refined strategic plans to address areas of improvement. This willingness to examine ways to improve and adopt innovative solutions has in particular extended to the BPD’s officer safety and wellness programming. Informed by research and department member feedback, and with the support of key figures throughout the department, the BPD’s safety and wellness programming is continuing to support their members and serve as an example for other departments.

Cover Picture Source: Social Media Manager, Bend Police Department