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‘We’re people, too’

file photoJustin Ivens is annouced as the new Medford Police Chief.
Incoming Chief Ivens explains his vision for the Medford Police Department

Justin Ivens, who has been the deputy chief of the Medford Police Department’s Operations Bureau since 2019 and employed by the department since 1995, will be sworn-in as the new chief on Dec. 2.

He said that day will be a proud one as he begins the job of leading the department’s officers and staff, whom he described as hard-working and committed to the community.

Ivens said in an interview last week that there isn’t a pressing need to fix things or make changes because of thoughtful planning and management by those who preceded him, such as Chief Scott Clauson, who will be leaving at the end of December after a short period of overlap between them.

Ivens will spend a good amount of time managing upcoming staff changes, he predicted.

The highest-ranking open position will be the one he is leaving: deputy chief of operations.

But there will be what he described as a “bunch” of retirements within the next six months because a significant number of employees are eligible to leave the department with pensions.

Knowing when an employee plans to move on is important, Ivens said, especially someone who has been around for a long time so management can do their best to prepare for that person’s departure. And even though employees who come to work for the Medford Police Department often stay on for many years, as a rule, law enforcement employees approaching the end of their careers “tend to be happy,” he said.

Department hierarchy down to patrol sergeants and shift supervisors will be affected as people move on and qualified employees come up through the ranks. Openings for community service officers and sworn officers will need to be filled, he said.

Getting officers ready to work independently requires them to complete a great deal of learning, Ivens noted.

Ivens himself started out as a community service officer before becoming a sworn officer, then moved upward into department management.

Once candidates are found, they need to complete police academy training to perform as sworn officers, for example.

The practice of encouraging anyone in the workforce who wants to embrace leadership roles is something Ivens said he wants to continue.

“Part of leadership is developing (employees) to take your position,” Ivens emphasized.

People who work for the department also tend to be involved citizens, which can be another way to learn how to provide leadership.

“So many of our folks are involved with their kids’ sports, schools, Special Olympics, their churches,” he said. “It’s awesome.”

Law enforcement itself is a public service that also requires basic leadership skills, such as integrity and empathy, Ivens also noted.

“We’re people, too. We’re compassionate and understand what (people) are going through,” he said.

Residents don’t always realize that department employees often can only do so much in a given situation. City ordinances, state law and other rules provide law enforcement with specific rules on how to approach many concerns.

Those in law enforcement, in turn, try in earnest to remember they are coming into contact with people struggling with rough, sometimes tragic, situations.

“People don’t contact the police a majority of times when things are good,” he said. “You call when things have hit their rock bottom or when things are at their worst.”

Ivens said a challenge facing law enforcement agencies across the state will be the ongoing effects of Measure 110.

Approved by voters in November and having gone into effect in February, it has reduced the penalty for possession of a controlled substance to a violation if it’s small, personal and for non-commercial use, for instance. It’s goal is increased emphasis on addiction recovery and prosecution for possession of larger quantities of drugs for sale.

“Unfortunately, Measure 110 also brings on other issues for law enforcement,” Ivens said. “Drug use can be directly related to other crimes. It’s how they support their addictions.”

He also said that these new approaches will decrease the number of people in jail charged for drug crimes but are likely already contributing to the increase in people being held for related crimes, such as theft.

The current call for moving more duties now handled by police to civilians — such as having mental health professionals respond to more situations when people are in severe crisis — is something he’s not automatically against but said that there is another problem that needs to be addressed first.

“The bigger issue is that you still have to try to have treatment options available to those in crisis,” Ivens said.

“It’s not the biggest issue whether police are dealing with this. No matter who does it, what will a mobile response team do with that person? That question has to be answered first. And it’s a challenge for the entire community.”