Neighbors, business people bid East Precinct Commander farewell

Find out why outer East Portland, from all walks of life, turned out to say goodbye to Commander Michael Crebs. And, find out what’s next for East Precinct’s former top cop …

Portland Police Bureau East Precinct Commander Michael Crebs conducts his last “Commander’s Forum” meeting in outer East Portland.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Having served four years and three months as Portland Police Bureau (PPB) East Precinct Commander, Michael Crebs announced he was leaving the post late in November.

When past East Precinct commanders retired or were transferred, outer East Portland folks bid them a fond farewell. But, Crebs apparent concern for our area touched many people to the extent that he received two sendoffs in December.

Commander’s last East Portland commendation
At the December 1 East Precinct Citizens Advisory Committee – still referred to as the “Commander’s Forum” by most people – the large Precinct Community Room was packed to overflowing with neighborhood representatives wanting to express their appreciation for Crebs’ dedicated service.

Commander Crebs presents a Commendation of Service to retiring volunteer “Trunk Lady” Mary Walker

But, Crebs didn’t speak about his impending departure. Instead, he called up Mary Walker, a resident of the Centennial Neighborhood, who was retiring from being a volunteer “Trunk Lady” (the Trunk Technicians restock the supplies carried in patrol vehicles) for the Precinct.

“Mary helped from 2002 to 2009,” Crebs commended. “We truly value the time you spent to make sure that each of our police vehicles were well-equipped and organized. What these people do for us is a valued service; we thank you.”

Neighbors applaud departing commander
Crebs smiled when David Smith, coordinator of EPIC – East Precinct Involved Citizens – strode up to the front of the room with a package in hand.

David Smith presents a commemorative plaque to the departing Commander Crebs.

Pulling a commemorative plaque from the envelope, Smith proclaimed, “In appreciation of your dedicated service to the citizens of East Precinct, we extend our highest regard to you, Commander Mike Crebs. Your dedication to the businesses and citizens of East Precinct has not gone unnoticed. Over the years, you have made a direct, positive difference in many people’s lives. No words can express how sorely missed you will be.”

The departing Commander appeared to be moved both by the plaque presentation and by the thunderous and sustained applause he received.

PPB East Precinct Lt. Tom McGranahan tells why the plaque is being given to the Commander at this meeting.

PPB East Precinct Lt. Tom McGranahan stepped forward and added, “Mike’s worked with me in the past; this is the first time I’ve worked for him! I’m here for Captain Bill Walker who is out on duty. Normally we give this plaque to a departing Commander at roll call. But, with four roll calls – we couldn’t decide at which one it might best be presented.”

Turning to the audience, McGranahan continued, “Plus, Mike, as you well know, is really interested in you folks, and the community. You are a priority with him. This is really appropriate for Mike to receive this memento here, before all of you. He’s a great guy. We will miss him.”

Commander Crebs thanks neighbors for their support, and tells them he’s not retiring, but is being transferred downtown.

Transferring, not retiring
“This is really nice; thank you,” Crebs responded. “The reason I got into police work was to serve you. You pay my wages, and I do the very best I can to make your life a little better. It means so much to me.”

Crebs told the group he’s being transferred to the Justice Center downtown, and would become Commander of the PPB Detective Division. “I’m not retiring; I’ve got another ten years with the Bureau. But, just because I’m downtown doesn’t mean I’m gone. I’ll still have my phone number; I’ll come out to meet with your neighborhoods and organizations to talk about our work as detectives.”

Crebs concluded, “I hope you offer the same support to Commander Mike Reese, coming to you from Central Precinct, as you have to me.”

GABA hosts Commander’s sendoff party

Commander Mike Crebs thanks business people at a GABA-sponsored Holiday party for supporting his work in outer East Portland.

On December 21, under the auspices of the Gateway Area Business Association, the Sanchez family hosted a holiday-themed sendoff party for Commander Crebs at 111th Square.

The handful of people present at the event, when we arrived at the decorated office, swelled to more than fifty well-wishers, as businesspeople arrived at the after-work event.

Nicole and Isabel Panichello (daughters of long-time Gateway supporter David Panichello of Opti-Con, Inc.) serves punch and treats to arriving guests.

As the revelers filed in, Commander Mike Crebs, now with the Portland Police Bureau Detective Division, talked with East Portland News about his time in East Precinct and his new assignment.

“Usually, Commander post assignments last two to three years,” Crebs began. “I started here in August, 2005 – a long assignment, for a precinct commander.”

Says he admires East Portland’s energized citizens
Asked what changes he’s seen in the area during his tenure, Crebs replied, “The citizens here have become more active. They’re asking City government for their fair share of services. And, I think the City Council has really made note of this; they’re listening, and taking the requests of people in East Portland seriously. Part of the visible result is the ongoing ‘East Portland Action Plan’ project.”

Mike Crebs shares a light moment with folks at the GABA gathering.

He continued, “Honestly, I didn’t know much about outer East Portland before I took the East Precinct post. I’ve found that citizens here are very active and concerned about their neighborhoods. And they’re very energized toward making improvements here.

“What I’ll miss about being at East Precinct is the hard-working, supportive citizens with whom I’ve worked. I think about them all the time; I feel so supported here. The citizens here are decent people; I’m going to miss working with them.”

About his East Precinct staff, Crebs had high praise. “The men and women officers who work here are dedicated and hard-working; you’ll find no finer officers, and support and command staff in the entire United States. Every day, I see their dedication to this community in action – both on the job, and how they volunteer their time to make it a better place out here.”

Tom Barnes of the Powellhurst-Gilbert Neighborhood Association, and the VP of the Midway Business Association, Donna Dionne from Love Boutique, spend a moment with Commander Crebs, to wish him well.

Event draws area-wide support
From the southern neighborhoods in the precinct, supporters Tom Barnes and Donna Dionne came to wish Crebs well.

The Chair of Powellhurst-Gilbert Neighborhood Association’s Public Safety Committee, Tom Barnes, told us, “Working with Mike has been absolutely fantastic. He’s been very supportive of the many of the anti-crime, pro-safety programs we’ve started.”

With Powellhurst-Gilbert recently awarded the Spirit of Portland Neighborhood Award, Barnes commended, “Thanks to Crebs, we been able to start several programs through East Precinct – from our bike patrol, to graffiti cleanup, to Block Watch organizing. Without his support, and that of the command staff and district officers, we wouldn’t have been able to improve our neighborhood with these City-recognized programs.”

Donna Dionne, VP of the Midway Business Association, added, “The Commander has truly been an advocate of community policing. He’s been very involved with the business community, supporting and visiting our – and other – outer East Portland business associations. We feel we’ve had his full support; we’re sorry to see him go.”

Commander’s secret revealed
After introductions around the crowded room, host Fred Sanchez noted, “As we know the Commander is moving downtown. But I can’t let him leave without telling about certain foods he enjoys.”

All in agreed with Sanchez’s sentiment that no one had ever seen Crebs dine at a breakfast, lunch, or dinner. “I’m not aware of anyone who is taken him to lunch. I’ve been asking his friend, and fellow officers why I could never get him to go to lunch and talk about GABA business or the Gateway area. We finally sat down to a brown-bag lunch; we both brought our own meals – and finally figured out what he eats. Here’s a picture I found buried in the archives.”

Fred Sanchez, president of Realty Brokers and host at 111th Square, reveals what he believes is the featured entree on Commander Crebs’ secret diet. (Actually, it’s tuna!).

Crebs admitted to his fondness of fish, especially tuna. Turning to the gathering, Crebs said, “I really will miss you. Please, stay involved. Keep taking pride in your neighborhoods; continue to work with the police. You’re great people, that’s all I can say.”

Calls Crebs a ‘man of integrity’
At the party, Argay Terrace Neighborhood’s Chair, Valerie Curry, summed up well what many people in outer East Portland think about the departing commander:

“His personal integrity is the thing that touches my heart,” Curry noted. “We don’t see a lot of that in public leadership. I wish we had more leaders who demonstrate integrity as Commander Crebs has. He’s a great guy; we’ll miss him.”

Commander Crebs looks on as Montavilla Neighborhood Association Chair Brian Wong and Samantha visits “Not your ordinary Santa” Kevin Minkoff, CPA at the Gateway gathering.

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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