City & Government

Shearer leading the way

SPRINGFIELD — Chief Andrew Shearer actually wanted to become a firefighter in his youth.

“I joke with some of my longtime friends in law enforcement that when I was a kid, I really wanted to be a firefighter,” Shearer said in a July interview with The Chronicle. “But then I was influenced by many TV shows and movies and thought that being a cop would be very cool and very challenging, and I was hooked.”

SPD is a full-service police agency made up of 123 members that includes sworn police officers, unarmed community service officers, corrections officers, and dispatchers. In the intervening 29 years of law enforcement experience, Shearer held almost every job within Portland’s 1,000-member police bureau, rising from patrol to assistant chief of police prior to his retirement in 2020.

But true retirement would have to wait once Shearer saw the open position down I-5 in Springfield.

“My plan all along was to finish my career in Portland, and I truly loved the department and the experience,” said Shearer. “But when I left, I knew I still wanted to contribute at a high level in law enforcement, so when this opportunity arose, I jumped at it.”

Since coming to Springfield, Shearer has tried to blend both the traditional policing philosophy he learned over the decades with new innovations and ways of thinking that benefit both the department he leads and the community they serve.

“We are recruiting officers that are quite different from when I began,” he said. “Of course, we still need people who can investigate and solve crime, but we really want individuals who can also innovate with new ideas. Right now, we are hiring far fewer people straight out of college or the military, as was always the traditional path to policing, and instead hiring people in their 30s who have other life experiences.”

Shearer believes that people with differing life experiences can bring a new approach to policing, which is critically important to doing the job and as well as representing law enforcement to a public that may not always see cops in the best light.

“I don’t think anyone can argue that over the years the perception of cops hasn’t always been good,” said Shearer. “And as cops, we have to own that perception and work hard every day to make it better.

For decades, the work of a cop was out of sight, out of mind. We need to be more transparent to be more accountable and effective. That is what the community expects, and we rightly need to deliver.”

When she announced Shearer would move from interim to chief of police, Springfield city manager Nancy Newton highlighted his emphasis on accountability to the public. 

“We are very fortunate to have someone with his extensive experience, thoughtful guidance, and compassion serving our community. He embodies the balance we need to ensure we conduct our work based on best practices and accountability,” Newton said.

Several programs launched by Shearer as the interim chief that continue today address ways to enhance accountability throughout the department. These include increasing transparency via the city web page and social media; live body worn camera and in-car video programs; hiring a community outreach officer; and using the latest software to enhance accountability and improvement in use of force, vehicle pursuit, and public complaint management. At the core of some of these programs is a heavy reliance on the latest technology, and Shearer is a big proponent of incorporating tech into modern policing.

“Today, almost every crime has a technology component to it,” he said. “Even a simple crime like stealing candy from a store involves cell phone or CCTV footage. We try to use every tool available to us including databases, accountability software, and body cameras to ensure we are in the best possible position to do our jobs.”

Yet for all the importance of the latest technology, the human touch is still the main tool in Shearer’s arsenal. “What I love about Springfield is that it’s a size where you can really get to know every officer and every employee. I get to go to roll-call and really talk with the officers on the street. While so much has changed since I was a patrol officer, I can have meaningful and relatable conversations with the men and women in this department.”

When he has those conversations, Shearer is always quick to point out that every officer is an ambassador of not just SPD, but of the profession itself. “I do tell my team that everything we do can have a ripple effect on the entire department and just as important, an action by another cop in another city or state can have an impact on us right here.”

Shearer is also a great believer that, while the job of police officer is unlike any other, there must be room for work-life balance. 

“I’m a cop and it is a noble and incredibly important profession,” he said. “But it shouldn’t be the only thing that defines me or anyone at Springfield PD. Everyone should be able to go home and be who they are. My hope is that I provide the kind of leadership where my officers feel good about the job they do, but also the individuals they are outside of the job.”

When asked what he hopes for the department in the next few years, Shearer doesn’t take long to answer: “I want everyone to think of Springfield as a safe place for you and your family and your business. Simple as that.”



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