EUGENE, Ore. (KMTR) -- Moving forward after the tragedy, the Eugene Police Department is speaking out on how it's remembering Officer Kilcullen and the changes that have been made in the department over the last year.
Sunday, April 22, 2012, marks the one-year anniversary of the day Eugene Police Officer Chris Kilcullen was fatally shot in the line of duty during a traffic stop and police chase.
Even though there is no large-scale public memorial for Officer Kilcullen this Sunday, Eugene Police Chief Pete Kerns says Chris is being honored in many on-going ways.
Chief Kerns addressed the media on Friday, April 20, 2012, saying he feels the department is more tight-knit since the tragedy. Kerns says he’s noticed a greater respect between the community and the department as well.
Moving forward is the department’s main goal now. One year later, EPD says it will continue to support the Kilcullen family with liaisons from the department. Chief Kerns say the support from the community has been “relentless and appreciated”.
“I would encourage people to take Sunday to think about themselves, think about their families, think about the example that the Kilcullen family has set, where despite their grief they've shown enormous leadership, compassion and care,” said Kerns. “We should all ask ourselves, 'what can I, what do I do now to make the world a better place?' ”
Late last year, state lawmakers passed a bill renaming Highway 126 and Interstate 105 between Eugene and Springfiled Officer Chris Kilcullen Memorial Highway. Chris’ alma mater, Willamette High School, is also working on a memorial garden in his honor.
In May 2012, Officer Kilcullen's name will be etched into law enforcement memorials at the Oregon State Police Academy in Salem and a national memorial in Washington, D.C.
Since the incident, Chief Kerns says the department has made some slight changes in the way it works. “After a year, we're a little more mature, a little more seasoned, a little more ready to bring justice to this community,” said Kerns.
While the fundamentals at EPD remain the same, Kerns says patrol officers now spend more time on officer-subject safety training, particularly surrounding car stops.
Cheryl Kidd, 57, the woman who shot Kilcullen, fired her gun while he was riding his motorcycle alongside her car. Kidd has been deemed unfit to stand trial at this point due to mental illness.
“It may be that the suspect is so severely affected by mental health conditions that they may never be held to account in the traditional way,” said Kerns. “The most important thing to us is that they don't represent a danger to police officers or anyone else in the future, so our efforts need to go towards that instead.”
Kidd is now being treated at the Oregon State Hospital. In all, doctors have three years to treat Kidd and get her well enough to understand the charges against her. If that doesn't happen, the charges could be dropped. Doctors have diagnosed Kidd with schizophrenia and extreme paranoid delusions.
Chief Kerns says his department will continue to support state legislation addressing the people with known mental illness and their access to a driver's license, purchasing a gun or fitness to stand trial.
So far, no legislation has been drafted.