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“I didn’t want to be the cop who just took the report”

Meet your new police chief, Capt. Carey Kaer.

In September, Capt. Kaer took over from Capt. James Eriksen, and oversees four Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) deputies assigned to our city. He is our lead law enforcement officer – and I like him. When we sat down for coffee at Stomping Grounds, he was honest with his answers and generous with his time.

Here’s what I learned: Capt. Kaer is a Fairview resident, and has lived here since 2006. He loves East County and served as a Troutdale police officer for 12 years until the MCSO. He is a stickler for doing the right thing. For 7 months, he oversaw MCSO’s professional standards office, leading internal investigations and otherwise ensuring that law enforcement officers act legally, morally, and ethically in the line of duty.

Capt. Kaer has a lot of respect for his old boss, retired Troutdale Police Chief Scott Anderson, and can recite the values he drilled into his team: respect, integrity, courage, compassion, excellence, and service. Capt. Kaer also believes in accountability and is pushing the MCSO to require regular performance evaluations for officers.

Capt. Kaer grew up in Portland’s St. John’s neighborhood and attended Roosevelt High School. He became a welder and made railroad box cars. But after his brother became a Portland cop, he caught the law enforcement bug.

“It’s a cliche, but I really did go into this work to help people,” he said. “If I can find someone’s stolen car or make sure someone feels listened to when they’ve got a problem with a neighbor, then I feel I have done the job well. I didn’t want to be the cop who just took the report and said ‘Here you go, not my problem.’ You have to make a connection with people.”

As a Fairview resident, and our police chief, Capt. Kaer says he’s happy with the MCSO performance in the city: “We do a good job of responding to calls with care and compassion.”

But, like some residents and members of the city council, he wants to add a Fairview community resource officer who would focus on crime prevention and work closely with neighborhood and community groups to tackle “quality of life” issues such as speeding and illegal dumping. Corbett and Troutdale both employ community resource officers, or CROs. Capt. Kaer said a CRO would lower response times to citizen calls and increase law enforcement visibility on our streets.

I’m not sold on the option. I want to know more about the services we’re getting with our existing MSCO team, whether we can use those human resources more effectively, how much a CRO will cost, and how we’d pay for it. Fairview’s public safety obligations for police, fire, and 911 call coverage already eat up most of our property tax revenues. Adding another officer would require either cuts to other city services, or additional fees or taxes. I need a lot more information, and need to hear from residents, before I make a decision.

That’s why I’m really interested in the results of our public safety survey – which you can take here. Capt. Kaer is also eager to hear what residents have to say. “You don’t need to love us, but you do need to support us,” he told me. “Everyone needs the police sometime.”

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