New police chief opens door to Hood River

June 8, 2005

Hood River’s new police chief took his oath of office last Friday, flanked by four law enforcement officials from his previous place of employment.

Redmond City Police Detective Phil Paschke had tried in vain to convince Bruce Ludwig to stay in Central Oregon. But, when that failed, he and a trio of fellow officers decided to visit the Gorge and wish their former administrative captain well in his new role.

Ludwig said the show of support from the Redmond contingency was extremely appreciated after 15 years of service with them. He was just as grateful for the warm greeting that he received from numerous Hood River leaders and residents.

“The people here have made me feel very welcome and I am looking forward to serving this community,” he said.

Ludwig, 54, was the top choice from a field of 25 candidates for the chief job. He took over on June 1 from interim chief Matt Fine, who came out of retirement in Bend to temporarily oversee police operations after Kevin Lynch stepped aside in December.

Ludwig said Fine spent hours briefing him on basic operating procedures and introducing him to between 50-60 people within a three-day period.

Although he admits that it is still difficult matching all of the faces to the names — or even punching all of the right buttons on his office equipment — Ludwig plans to expand his learning curve even further.

His goal is to have an open door policy over the next few months and invite members of the community to stop by and discuss any issues of concern — or just say hello.

“I’m not planning on making any random changes to this department. I don’t believe in making change just for change. I expect people to provide me with good information, which I’ll evaluate before making my own independent decision,” said Ludwig. “What I’m hoping to do is spend the next three months making sure everything is going smoothly and identifying needs.”

His top priority as the lead officer is to ensure that city police are providing high quality customer service. Ludwig believes visiting with residents and area service organizations will provide him with good background knowledge about how the public perceives his department.

“We accept tax dollars and we have an obligation to to provide excellent customer service — and we’re going to do that,” he said.

Ludwig views “community policing” as a philosophy that is multifaceted. He said for community members to truly feel protected, the root problems of safety and security issues need to dealt with. For example, if police are continually called to the same residence for the infractions of the law, Ludwig said it is time to see if a new approach is warranted and available.

“You need to start peeling the layers of the problem away, like an onion, until you get to the core,” he said.

He believes that citizen confidence in the level of service that they are receiving is tied to established professional standards. Ludwig was instrumental in helping the Redmond department establish official policies and procedures that gained state approval. Not only does meeting the 139 standards of the Oregon Accreditation Alliance lower liability risks for the department, he said it holds officers to greater accountability.

In 2003 former Hood River chief Tony Dirks started the arduous process to establish a uniform set of operating rules but that project was shelved with his departure. Ludwig plans to dust off the guidelines for performance in all areas of service delivery and complete the process of getting them down in print.

But first he wants to hold a departmental meeting with all 18 staffers in the immediate future and then hold one-on-one discussions with each employee. Once he is completely aware of any “hot-button” issues within the agency, Ludwig plans to get them resolved so officers can put all of their energies into protection of the public.

“I want to hear how they think things are going, what they think is broken and what’s working right,” Ludwig said. “I want to empower everyone in this department to make good decisions and know that they will get backed.”

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