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Bend police chief fired; city manager tells why

Published On: Jan 22 2014 02:40:21 PM CST
Updated On: Jan 23 2014 07:28:13 PM CST

NewsChannel 21's John Hendricks has reaction after Bend Police Chief Jeff Sale is fired.

BEND, Ore. -

Bend City Manager Eric King on Wednesday fired Police Chief Jeff Sale in the wake of an explosive sex scandal in which the department's spokesman resigned after having sex or sexual contact with three city employees, on and off duty, and a member of the media.

"Bend Police Chief Jeff Sale's contract was terminated, effective today, Jan. 22," the city said in its announcement. "Sale was an at-will employee, meaning the city manager could terminate his employment without cause at any time."

"After considerable research and careful consideration, City Manager Eric King has determined that a change in leadership is necessary to improve the culture of the Police Department so it can best serve the community," the statement continued.

King said., "I hold city department heads, and all staff, to high standards. While it can be difficult to make such staffing changes, it's important to ensure that this community receives the best public services possible."

King appointed police Capt. Jim Porter, a 22-year veteran of the Bend force, as interim chief.  The city will initiate a search for a permanent police chief later this year.

Porter told NewsChannel 21 he feels he has a great relationship with members of the community and with employees of the department. He said building on those relationships and becoming a more cohesive unit will make the department stronger.

"The past two days, we've brought in a cross-section of the department and sit down and get a feel for where we need to go as an agency," Porter said.

Wednesday night, Bend City Councilor Jodi Barram backed King's choice for interim chief.

"It's very important to have some continuity during a time of transition," Barram said. "I think that was a good decision on Eric King's part."

Days after the Lt. Chris Carney investigation and resignation became public, Sale told NewsChannel 21 the incident was an embarrassing one for his department.

"As an organization, this is embarrassing, and everyone in the organization feels that," Sale said last Thursday. "This is not who we are."

A history of sexual misconduct didn't stop Carney from getting one of the department's most high-profile jobs a couple of years ago.

"Some of these (sexual encounters) had occurred quite some time ago," Sale said. "And I personally was not aware of them."

Sale said then it was time to apologize and move on.

"We have good people who work here, and we make good decisions," he said. "We'll fix our mistakes and do everything we can to make sure it doesn't happen again."

King told NewsChannel 21 Wednesday he began an internal investigation of the department last month, interviewing employees and community partners to get "an assessment of the culture" -- one he found to be unproductive, unable to deal with issues and suffering from bad morale.

He said red flags also came up in annual employee surveys -- issues that arose before the Carney investigation.

The city manager said he has other changes in the works, and believes a new leader like Porter will help better protect and serve the community.

"I think he's got a real focus on relationships, and he understands some of the chasm that exists and some of the cultural divide that has existed within the department that has created communication issues, and seems to be very focused on improving that," King said.

"Now the message is we need everybody's help in the department to create the right culture," King said. "This is part of that is the right leadership, but it's also something that everybody shares in that responsibility."

King said no other jobs are at risk at the police department right now. He also said there will be an open, competitive search process for a new police chief.

Porter can apply for that job, when the time comes, but told NewsChannel 21 Wednesday he'll see how his new role goes first, before deciding whether to seek the permanent post.

"One of the advantages of being in law enforcement since 1983 in Central Oregon is I've got a lot of relationships with good quality people who are inside and outside of public safety, and I think that's important for us to be successful," Porter said. "Now relationships inside the department are also very important."

Sale was the police chief in Cheney, Wash., when he was chosen to be Bend's new chief in mid-2011, succeeding Sandi Baxter.

Sale's current salary was $10,445 a month, or about $125,000 a year. His contract provides for a severance payment, if terminated, of four months' salary, or about $42,000, a city spokesman said.

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