'Never be satisfied with yesterday's performance': Police Chief Pete Kerns on 36 years

The future chief of police as a reserve officer in 1981: That's Pete Kerns, second from right. (EPD)

EUGENE, Ore. - Police Chief Pete Kerns plans to retire his badge after 34 years with the Eugene Police Department.

(It's 36 years if you count his two years as a reserve officer.)

Kerns became chief in 2008.

"Never be satisfied with yesterday's performance," he said at the time.

It's been the mantra for the neighborhood cop who worked his way up through the ranks.

"Being a police officer is a lot of fun," Kerns said. "It's a rewarding job."

Kerns became a full-time Eugene Police officer in 1983 alongside the former Lane County Sheriff and current Florence Police Chief, Tom Turner.

Kerns has worked in practically every role at Eugene Police.

During his time as chief, oversight systems like the civilian review board have taken a stronger role in monitor police behavior.

"What's good about that is that it motivates us to perform at a pretty high level, perform with excellence," he said.

Kerns said the worst moment of his time as chief came on that horrible day in 2011: the murder of Officer Chris Kilcullen, a longtime member of the Eugene Police traffic team.

"The public nature of it, and of course the kind of character that he possessed, made that a terrific loss for all of us," Kerns said. "Not just the department but the community."

The department has also been under scrutiny for high-profile shootings, like the 2015 death of Brian Babb, or the more recent shooting at an apartment on Corliss Lane.

"Sometimes the suspect or subject that brought us there makes decisions that the police can have no control over whatsoever," Kerns said.

The chief said that, with calls for service up 35 percent in the last four years, the big challenge ahead will be resources and lack of officers on the street.

His advice for the next chief?


"It is a 24 hour a day, 7 day a week existence," he said, "and one that I've enjoyed a great deal."

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