When Central Point police and law-enforcement personnel from neighboring communities were on hand this summer to witness Central Point native Kris Allison take the oath to become the city's new police chief, there was hardly a dry eye at City Hall.
Surrounded by more than 100 colleagues, friends and family, Allison became the town's first female chief and the first chief ever promoted from within the department's ranks.
Juggling the roles of police chief and mother of two young girls, Allison is described by those who know her as a hard worker with lots of commitment and lots of heart. Quietly unassuming and able to relate to every rank in the department she now guides, the 39-year-old grew up in Central Point without any particular interest in a law-enforcement career.
Hired as a cadet for Oregon State Police after graduating from Crater High School in 1991, Allison first was stationed in Coos Bay, then in Rogue River, doing parks patrol under various agencies.
"Prior to high school, I would not have said I wanted to go into law enforcement. When you're 18 years old, you're just looking for a way to make some money to get out into the world," she says.
"Soon after I started with OSP, I knew right away that it was a good fit and something I was pretty sure I wanted to do."
Eventually enrolling at Southern Oregon University, a very young Allison went to work as a filing clerk for the Phoenix Police Department and eventually trained and was hired as a reserve officer. Just months after being hired for full-time patrol in 1996, she was let go after a ballot measure for police funding failed.
After a two-year stint as a patrol officer in Lincoln City, from 1996 to 1998, Allison jumped at an opportunity to work for her hometown. Yet to finish her degree, she spent the past decade and a half climbing the ranks from patrol officer to detective to captain.
Returning to school after more than 10 years, Allison earned a bachelor's degree in criminal justice from SOU in 2007 and a master's from Boston University in 2009.
Over the years, more so than being promoted, Allison says her focus was what all those in law enforcement should strive for: protect and serve.
"I definitely didn't focus on being a chief in my career," she says. "I've been very fortunate and had a lot of doors open for me, but more than anything I just embraced every position I had."
On being the first female chief in the city, Allison says she doesn't see gender as relevant but acknowledges the small percentage of command-level positions held by women in agencies nationwide.
"I'm sure some people will look at me and do a double take," she adds, "but when you talk to anyone who is well-versed in the profession, you get past that pretty quickly."
Brian Day, trained by Allison at the start of his career and recently promoted to captain, says the city could not have picked a more qualified police chief.
"Kris is someone who has put in all of the work, and she is exactly as she appears to be on the surface: very sincere, driven, focused," Day says. "She's someone who genuinely cares, and she has definitely earned her new position."
Allison's husband, OSP Sgt. Jeff Allison, says the city could not have found a cop with more heart.
"Even when I first met her, she just struck me as a genuinely nice and compassionate person who was very knowledgeable, very hard-working and just a really good cop," he says.
"In this job, you see so much crappy stuff that sometimes you get a little jaded. That never happened to Kris. She just always had a lot of empathy for the people she's worked the cases for."
While Allison's two biggest fans were in attendance as she became the city's new chief, the mother of two says her girls likely were more impressed with the cake served afterward.
"They're still young enough that they don't really grasp much about what we do," Allison says. "We're careful not to talk much shop at home, and we try to focus on just being parents when we're with them, trying to strike that balance.
"They're young enough that they're only impressed with me or their dad when we get to bring a car home from work."
Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. Email her at email@example.com.