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O'Keeffe says goodbye after 35 years

by: Jaime Valdez, Police Lt. Kevin O’Keeffe congratulates his son John after pinning his Beaverton police shield on him during Monday’s swearing-in reception.

Beaverton Police Lt. Kevin O'Keeffe found his calling in law enforcement and for the past 35 years has served as a dependable leader in the city's police force.

Those who have served alongside O'Keeffe over the years say he will be missed when he retires at the end of the month.

'Beaverton is losing one of the most loyal and dedicated members it's ever had,' said Wes Ervin, a retired police captain. 'He is a great police officer, who really cares about the agency and the community.'

'Kevin is the kind of guy you wanted to have cover you and someone you could always count on to do the right thing at the right time,' added Richard DeHaan, another retired police captain. 'When push came to shove, he could shove, but it wasn't in his nature. He truly cares about people and is a good guy.'

'He's steadfast and extremely dependable,' said Patrol Sgt. Pat Campbell. 'He's kind of an anchor around here and someone you can go to for solutions to problems because he has a wealth of experience.'

O'Keeffe began his career in law enforcement with the Beaverton Police Department in July 1973 working part-time as a community service officer while he was studying criminal justice at Portland Community College.

He spent his time washing patrol cars, cleaning jail cells, running errands and giving tours of the old police station.

That changed one day in September when a dispatcher called in sick and then Beaverton Police Lt. David Bishop informed O'Keeffe that he would serve as a dispatcher that night.

'I had no training, and there I was working an old boom mike and teletype machine as a graveyard dispatcher,' he said.

After making it through that first shift, the department hired the 20-year-old Irishman as a fulltime dispatcher. He served in that role until he turned 21 in April and was sworn in as a police officer the next month.

'Back then the only requirements were you needed to be 21, a white male over 6 feet tall and 200 pounds,' he said. 'There were no medical or written tests and no visits with a shrink.

'When I started, Beaverton had 17 policemen. Hall Boulevard was the dividing line and half of us would take one side and half would take the other. There have been a lot of changes around the city since then. '

O'Keeffe became interested in law enforcement after spending a shift on the road with Portland Police Officer Wally Turay for a high school sociology class.

'Up until then I was thinking about being a Catholic priest,' O'Keeffe said. 'Becoming a police officer was another way of helping people, and I liked the excitement.'

'Cared about his troops'

O'Keeffe served on Beaverton's first K-9 team with Gary Dodson and Jim Bird.

He fondly remembers his two years, responding to calls with his donated German shepherd partner, Caesar, by his side.

'Probably the best part of my career was running the K-9,' he said. 'We were the only game in town all over the metro area. No one else had dogs, so Gary and I were deployed everywhere.

'When I was promoted to patrol sergeant, I wouldn't take it unless they would let me have my dog. Bishop let me buy Caesar for $1.'

O'Keeffe began moving up the ranks and was put in charge of a mini-street crimes special enforcement unit. The team performed a lot of surveillance, took assignments other officers didn't have the time to do and ended up taking the lead on narcotics busts.

'We did a lot of undercover work,' O'Keeffe said. 'I had a red beard and hair down over my shoulders, but I wouldn't get my ear pierced like the other guys.'

He later served as a detective sergeant before being promoted to lieutenant in 1995.

'He was an excellent sergeant to work for because he really cared about his troops,' said Andrea Moore, a retired police lieutenant.

'I've had the pleasure of watching Kevin rise through the ranks, and I've always been proud of him,' added Beaverton Police Chief David Bishop. 'He's always been extremely committed and respected by all of our law enforcement family in the Portland metropolitan area.'

In addition to his leadership responsibilities for the agency, O'Keeffe also served as the department's liaison to the Beaverton Police Activities League; liaison to interagency enforcement teams for drugs, gangs and TriMet; commander of the Mobile Response Team; member of the city's disaster planning committee; chairman of the police department's safety committee and member of the Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue Incident Management Team.

'Partners for two weeks'

'I wouldn't have changed anything in my 35 years,' said O'Keeffe, who hasn't had a sick day in more than 30 years. 'You'd be hard-pressed to find a better organization to work for.

'You never know what the next radio or phone call is going to bring. Being part of the Beaverton Police Department has been one of the greatest experiences of my life. I couldn't ask for a better bunch of people to work with. I'd recommend this job to anyone.'

That includes his son John O'Keeffe, who returned in June after an 18-month deployment in Afghanistan with the Army National Guard's 41st Combat Brigade.

John O'Keeffe was one of four new Beaverton police officers sworn in during Monday night's City Council meeting.

'When he was 6 or 7 he would tell his friends that 'Dad and I are going to be partners,'' O'Keeffe said of his son. 'We'll be partners for two weeks anyway.'

With the next O'Keeffe generation joining Beaverton's police force, Kevin decided it was time to retire, put some miles on his 20-foot North River boat and 30-foot fifth-wheel, and enjoy being a new grandpa.

'When you start hiring your children, you know it's time,' he said. 'Heck, the handcuffs I've had for 35 years are older than many of our officers.

'Plus, my body is telling me it's time to go, too. One of the toughest things for me though was writing my resignation letter and giving it to the chief. I had to write it three times before I got it right.'

Stepping down will be tough for O'Keeffe, but he's confident the agency is in good hands.

'These kids aren't going to have as much fun as we did when I first started,' he said. 'There are more laws to deal with and more restrictions on officers, but they are very well trained and very well equipped.'

When asked if he had any advice for the new generation of police officers, he said, 'Treat people right - the way you'd want your mom treated. You have to have compassion. You have to have integrity - that means doing what's right even if someone's not watching you.'