Eugene’ Chief of Police Chris Skinner met with members of the public at Killer Burger in downtown Eugene on Friday afternoon.
The event, which was referred to as a “Meat and Greet,” provided an opportunity for the public to converse with Skinner as well as numerous other members of the Eugene Police Department. Skinner was sworn in on May 2, replacing former Chief of Police Pete Kerns who retired last December.
The Meat and Greet was the first of what Skinner said he hopes to be many community outreach events hosted by the police department. “I really like having these types of events because it brings people together,” he said. “It puts names and faces together and gives us a chance to show our personalities at the police department a little bit.”
Skinner also sees community outreach as an effective way to better understand the various concerns of Eugene residents.
“Depending on what part of the community you’re from, and where you live, everybody has a different focus on what they think is important,” he said. “The key for me is to understand and honor that, and to do the best that I can to meet as many of those needs as I can.”
Other members of the Eugene Police Department, such as Captain Sam Kamkar, also attended the Meat and Greet. Kamkar noted that it was very unusual for a police chief to invite his staff to participate in an event like this.
“What’s different with this one is that our chief didn’t want to be here without his command staff and his officers and employees,” he said. “So he opened up an invitation to anybody who wanted to come and join this get together because he sees us all as part of a team. Which is really nice. It’s refreshing.”
Captain Kamkar said the event provided an opportunity to speak with people in a positive and relaxed environment, as opposed to the tense situations police officers normally find themselves in.
“When you think about our job and our profession, people don’t invite us to a party when they’re having a good time, right?” he said.
Tracy Wise, a professional mental health counselor, came to the event to discuss the police department’s hiring practices. He was able to meet with the department’s hiring manager to express concerns about whether or not they’re doing sufficient psychological and background checks for new recruits.
Wise was particularly interested in the department’s screening process for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which he thinks may have played a role in many of the controversial police shootings in America in recent years.
“It seems to me that what I’ve seen in videos of people being killed by police – sometimes what I see, it sure looks like to me – is that the police person is being triggered,” he said. “So I’m wondering, are they checking for this? And I was told that yes they are. I was really happy with the description of the process they have to go through to become police force here in Eugene.”
Peggy Thomas, who brought Skinner some of her homemade raspberry and quince jelly, is disabled and uses a wheelchair. She also was once homeless for four years, and wanted to talk with Chief Skinner about how the police interact with homeless people in Eugene.
“Homeless people get cited a lot and we have a housing crisis in the community, and rents are going up. So seniors and disabled people are more and more ending up being pushed out into the street,” Thomas said.
Chief Skinner hasn’t planned the next outreach event for the police department yet, but he wants to hold these events throughout Eugene in order to reach more members of the community.
“I don’t know where the next one is going to be, but you can bet that we’re going to do this quarterly and make sure that the entire community gets a chance to sit down and have a good conversation,” he said.