Medford Police Department Chief Tim George announced his retirement Friday night after 38 years with the department.
George's retirement is effective Dec. 1. Medford's temporary City Manager John Hoke will announce an interim police chief before George's departure, city officials said.
"I've had a wonderful career," George said. "I've worked with some of the best people you could ever know. I never set out to be police chief."
George was hired as a MPD patrol officer in 1977.
"They raised me. I was 21 when I got hired and didn't know up from down," he said.
Rising through the ranks, George held posts that included detective, lieutenant, deputy chief, SWAT team commander, public information officer and deputy medical examiner. He holds a degree in criminology from Southern Oregon University and is a graduate of the FBI National Academy, city officials said.
Officials said he was instrumental in the formation of the Gang Street Drug Unit, the Tactical Information Unit and the Medford Area Drug and Gang Enforcement Team. He played a crucial role in leading MPD into its "problem-solving policing model," officials said.
Rather than any single accomplishment, George said he is most proud of the daily effort he and others have put in.
"You are what you do daily. It's not about any one case. What's most important is the day-to-day response and effort. I'm most proud of the daily effort people who work here put forth," he said. "It's a passion and a profession. You belong to something. You're part of Team MPD."
George said the time he has put into his job has meant sacrifices when it came to spending time with his children and wife, who is a teacher.
"I've probably worked too much and put work ahead of everything else. It was for the right reasons," he said.
George, who is about to turn 60, said his siblings in the Portland area have been caring for his 92-year-old mother. He would like to help care for her and spend time with her during her remaining years, he said.
He said changes to the Public Employees Retirement System that affect him financially also pushed him toward retirement.
A long-awaited building is under construction for the department. George said although he advocated for more space for MPD, the building was never about one person and he is not needed to shepherd the project through.
Looking ahead, George says MPD is facing challenges.
"One of the biggest challenges for MPD and for all of law enforcement is where technology is going. The expectation is that everything will be recorded," he said.
Law enforcement agencies will have to figure out how to capture and store all the video and audio recordings that are being made, from dash cameras to body cameras.
"It will make us better. It will increase public trust," George said. "We're fortunate in this community we do have public trust. That should be constantly reinforced. It's sad to see in some other communities in the nation the trust is not there."
As part of its efforts to relay information to the community, MPD is reaching out via social media outlets like Facebook and works hard to stay in contact with local media, he said.
Faced with a recent spike in gang-related shootings in Medford, George said police are working hard to tackle gang problems. He noted gangs are associated with an increase in criminal behavior and illicit drug use, and lead to a decline in the quality of life for neighborhoods.
"We try to improve one street and one location at a time," he said. "People want to be able to enjoy their parks and neighborhoods. That should be the expectation wherever you live — whether its west, east, north or south Medford."
George said the community has a role in reducing gang activity by being engaged in the lives of young people.
"If you want to do something to prevent young people from joining gangs, you have to take an interest in their lives," he said. "We need a whole community effort to be involved in their lives and give them strength not to be involved in gangs."
With North and South Medford High Schools facing each other in a football game Friday night, George said he was headed out to forget about work for a while and do his part to support youth sports.
"I'm going to go support the youth community. I'm going to go be a part of it," he said.
—Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-776-4486 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her at www.twitter.com/VickieAldous.