- SERGEANT REYNA: IMAGE COURTESY KATU
Police Bureau Spokeswoman Mary Wheat also issued this email statement: "I don't have any comment on Sgt Reyna's lawsuit however there is no evidence that indicates she did not call SERT because of any negative history with them. Sgt Reyna has utilized SERT in the past and has a very professional relationship with them."
More details have surfaced this afternoon over the discrimination allegations made by Sergeant Liani Reyna against the Portland Police Bureau's SERT team over the course of the last decade. Reyna was the sergeant on scene in the Campbell shooting, and the Mercury broke the story yesterday that she may have avoided calling SERT to the scene because of her longstanding discrimination beef with SERT. The city admitted that SERT had engaged in "sexist and puerile" behavior, according to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling we tracked down yesterday.
Portland Copwatch wrote about Reyna's complaint in issue 36 of its Peoples' Police Report:
Rituals practiced by the SERT team included "strip club outings, simulated sex, masturbating, [pretending to be a] supervisor having a bowel movement, [and] a form of discipline in which SERT members would force an officer to the ground while another officer would sit naked on the officer's face" (Oregonian, June 14).
We're trying to find the Oregonian article online as I type, but the paper's website archive is extraordinarily difficult to negotiate. [Update, 2:59—got it, after the jump]. Copwatch continues:
A jury of five women and three men inexplicably decided that these activities did not create a "hostile work environment" for Reyna. Perhaps it was the photos the other officers shared of her smiling, or the fact that she didn't file the complaint until four months after the incidents occurred. Given that she was ultimately disciplined by then-Chief Kroeker (who disbanded the SERT team for a short 7 weeks while an investigation was done, and who flew back into Portland for the trial), it's hardly surprising she was reluctant to come forward.Meanwhile, the Mercury has also gotten hold of the original complaint lodged by Reyna with the Bureau of Labor and Industries this afternoon. Details after the jump.
Apparently, the Bureau is no longer allowing the hazing practices.
"I am a Portland Police officer," begins Reyna's complaint. "I was assigned to the Portland Police Special Emergency Reaction Team in February, 1999 and was the first, and only, woman assigned to the team. I was also the first, and only, gay female assigned to the team."
"I was a member of the team from February, 1999 until my forced resignation from the team in November, 2000," Reyna wrote. "During this period of time, I was subjected to a hostile workplace based upon sex and sexual orientation, discrimination based upon sex and sexual orientation, and retaliation for opposing unlawful employment practices in the workplace."
Here are some of the allegations Reyna submitted to support her case:
•Reyna alleges that she went through the SERT selection process but that she was told in January 1999 that it wasn't her "turn" for assignment to SERT, and that it was the turn of a male employee.
•"In January 1999, the results of an initial selection process were set aside and a second process established," reads Reyna's complaint. "Sgt.Rowley stated that the Chief's office was just interested in putting a female on the SERT team and this was the way they were going to do it."
•In February 1999, Reyna commenced training. "The SERT Team maintains a custom, policy and practice of "hazing" new SERT team members," she wrote. "As a part of the hazing process, I was issued "rodent gear" consisting of a plastic army helmet, a seashell necklace and a wooden boot. I was instructed that I was responsible for making coffee, setting up targets on the firing range, cleaning up the range, picking up the brass and a variety of other menial tasks. I was informed that I was to wear my "rodent gear" in public restaurants, before training begins and after training ends. Officer Michael Stradley informed me that "better men than you have worn this gear."
•The Sert team cheer went as follows, according to Reyna's complaint: "Ra, SERT team! Where every man's a tiger, a big fucking tiger, a big fucking tiger with a dick this big" (demonstrating with hands to show a large object). "To accommodate the fact that I am female," Reyna wrote, "I was instructed that the SERT cheer would be changed as follows: "Ra, SERT team! Where everyone's a tiger, a big fucking tiger, a big fucking tiger with balls this big!"
•"I was instructed concerning the SERT team's practice of having a birthday idol," wrote Reyna. "The SERT team member is instructed that the birthday idol must be displayed prominently in the home of the member on their birthday. The SERT team birthday idol is an opaque statue of two men performing oral sex."
•During a week-long training session at Camp Riley, Reyna was required to participate in a series of sexually-oriented "skits": "(1) a Hawaiian night where male members danced in "g-strings" wearing coconut bras; (2) a skit where I was required to imitate, using a Presto log passed through my legs, a male employee having a bowel movement; (3) a skit where two employees imitated, using a barricade penetrating projectile, a male employee having sex with his wife; (4) a skit where two members simulated sexual intercourse and simulated a male climax."
•Reyna was pressured to drop out of the SERT team when a more senior member wanted to transfer to her precinct, she alleged.
•Reyna was told by a sergeant that "because you are a woman, the men can't talk to you the way they do to each other. Some guys are afraid they will hurt your feelings and make you cry."
•Reyna says she was isolated and treated differently by SERT team members when she began documenting her activities at training.
•More skits at another Camp Rilea training camp: "1) a skit where six male employees appeared wearing solely "thong" bikinis and their gun belts; 2)a skit where male "rodents" wore dresses, wigs and make-up and pretended to be women. During this skit Sgt.Tellinghusen made the statement, "I don't want you fucking queens coming near me!"; 3)a skit where a "rodent" showed how he prepared for a date by taking off his clothes, pretending to take a shower, waiving his penis, pretending to shave his pubic area, and simulating masturbation. During this display SERT team members threw objects attempting to hit the "rodent's" testicles; 4)a skit where two members simulated two employees performing oral sex; 5)a skit where team members pretended to be the music group, "The Village People" lip synching the song, YMCA; 6) a skit where SERT team members simulated two males performing sex. One of the members was completely nude during this skit. 7)a skit where the "rodents" wore g-strings and did a strip tease. Sgt.Mike Lee made the statement during this skit, "I see the overall theme is faggotry."
•"On October 25, 2000, I became light-headed and dizzy as a result of an increase in my medication," wrote Reyna. "SERT team members improperly gained access to confidential medical information, and circulated false rumors that I suffered from a seizure disorder. As a result of the false rumors, I was removed from street duty in November and placed on desk duty until March 2001."
•"Management level employees of the Portland Police Bureau knew of the unlawful employment practices described in this complaint and failed to take prompt, corrective action reasonably calculated to end the hostile workplace," wrote Reyna.
Having paid the $3 to access the Oregonian's archive, we have also found this letter to the Oregonian by a former close ally of Police Chief Rosie Sizer—retired Assistant Chief Lynnae Berg. Berg says that for the Oregonian to call the SERT team an "embarrassment to this community" is "inflammatory and inaccurate:"
- BERG LETTER: DEFENDS SERT TEAM'S REPUTATION
As mentioned yesterday, Chief Sizer herself has been quoted in this newspaper as saying that the bureau "deals well with gender."
Update, 2:59pm: Text of the Oregonian article:
JURY CLEARS ELITE POLICE SQUAD
Oregonian, The (Portland, OR) - Tuesday, June 14, 2005
Author: NOELLE CROMBIE - The Oregonian
Summary: Siding with Portland in a civil suit, jurors decide officers'
sexually charged behavior did not create a hostile workplace
For two weeks, an eight-member jury listened to a catalog of
after-hours behavior by the Portland Police Bureau's elite tactical
The five-woman, three-man panel heard about the team's strip club
outings, nude hot-tubbing, pornography viewing, graphic discussions
and explicit skits in which team members simulated having sex and
masturbating. Every day, a statue that was passed among team members
was perched on the trial counsels' table. The ivory-colored statue
depicts two men — one grabbing the other's genitals.
Monday, after about three hours of deliberation, the jury concluded
that those practices did not create a hostile work environment for
Officer Liani Reyna, the first female member of the bureau's tactical
team, which she joined in 1999.
Details of the officers' conduct was inventoried as part of Reyna's
civil trial in federal court against the city and the Police Bureau.
She accused the bureau of allowing the team's sexually charged hazing
rituals to go unchecked for years, then retaliating against her when
she complained. She asked the jury to award her damages in excess of
The trial included testimony from Reyna's former colleagues on the
Special Emergency Reaction Team, including her partners and
supervisors, as well as an afternoon of testimony by former Police
Chief Mark Kroeker.
Her former SERT colleagues and other officers painted a different
picture of the reaction of Reyna, 36, a patrol officer and 11-1/2-year
veteran of the Police Bureau. They said she was a willing participant
in the skits, including one in which she simulated a supervisor having
a bowel movement. They said she joined some of her SERT colleagues at
strip clubs after hours, sat in the front row and waved dollar bills
On Monday, as he made his closing arguement to the jury, James Martin,
an attorney representing the city, stood before five large photographs
of a smiling Reyna with fellow SERT officers.
"Do you think those were feigned smiles?" martin asked the jury. "Does
this look like unwelcome conduct?"
One of Reyna's fellow SERT officers, Todd Gradwahl, depicted her as a
gung-ho member who took notes while the team planned skits for their
annual training at Camp Rilea. He said she hosted the planning session
at her house and never expressed discomfort at the nature of the
When the team discussed changing the SERT team cheer — which contains
profanity and references to male genitalia — because of Reyna's
presence, Grawahl said Reyna participated in the discussions and made
a suggestion that ultimately was incorporated into the cheer. When a
seargeant asked Reyna if the new words to the cheer were acceptable to
her, "I remember her saying yes," Gradwahl said.
Gradwahl also said Reyna was among the officers who goaded him into
tucking is genitals between his legs, approaching a supervisor and
saying, "Look lieutenant, I'm a girl!"
Reyna testified that she did not encourage Gradwahl to perform the
prank and she did not suggest new wording for the team cheer.
Stephen Brischetto, Reyna's lawyer, told the jury in his closin
garguemnt that his client was "a trailblazer" who broke the gender
barrier on the SERT team. He said the culture of the team alienated
and excluded Reyna, who workd hard to be a full-fledged member and as
a result took part in some activities she found offensive.
He pointed out that the team has not had a woman as a member since
Reyna resigned in November 2000.
Some of the practices Reyna cited as offensive included a form of
discipline in which SERT members would force an officer to the ground
while another oficer would sit naked on the officer's face. At Camp
Rilea, Reyna described how officers would storm into the quarters of a
sleeping officer, roust him and simulate having sex with him.
REyna's initial complaint about objectionable practices four months
later led to the discipline of 20 officers, including Reyna. She
claimed that she was disciplined for disclosing the team's mismanagent
— a claim rejected by the jury.
After the jury delivered its verdict, Brischetto said Reyna realized
the trial would be a difficult one.
"Nevertheless, one of the most important goals in this case was
achieved simply by taking the case to trial and letting the public
know about the sexual misconduct that occurred on the city of
Portland's tactical team," he said. "Regardless of the verdict, we
believe there is much work that needs to be done to integrate women
into the city's tactical team."
The city says such sexually charged hazing practices are no longer allowed.
Brischetto said Reyna will review her options for appeal during the
next several weeks.
Update, 3:23pm Oregonian editorial from the following day:
OUR COMMUNITY'S VERDICT: DISGUST
Oregonian, The (Portland, OR) - Wednesday, June 15, 2005
Summary: The police officer who blew the whistle on an elite police
team didn't win in court, but she won a moral victory
It must have been a thrill in 1999, when Officer Liani Reyna was
tapped for the Portland Police Bureau's Special Emergency Reaction
Team, known as SERT .
Reyna was the first woman ever cleared to enter the equivalent of the
Portland Police Bureau's inner sanctum — the first woman invited to
join the toughest of the tough guys.
The Special Emergency Reaction Team is the Superman squad, after all.
These are the officers trained to deflect snipers, defuse hostage
situations and storm barricaded doors. What Reyna couldn't have
guessed going in, though, is that her official duties wouldn't be as
tough as her unofficial ones.
She didn't know she was joining a smut-saturated brotherhood with
rituals so degrading and sophomoric that they seemed dreamed up by
sadistic frat boys, not fellow officers.
An eight-member jury just finished listening to two weeks of
testimony, detailing the team's grotesque notion of R&R, its "bonding"
and hazing rituals, punishments and other fun and games. We do not
envy this jury. Hearing this case must have been about as uplifting as
being locked in a portable toilet for two weeks.
Among other things, the jury had to decide whether the city created a
"hostile working environment" for Reyna. On Monday, the jury decided
the city had not. Reyna's participation in some activities —
participation her former colleagues testified was enthusiastic — may
very well have helped to sway the jury.
It's never smart to second-guess a jury, of course, so we won't try.
But there's a common-sense explanation for Reyna's show of enthusiasm
for things she found offensive: In the time-honored fashion of people
everywhere when they're trying to fit in, Reyna faked it.
"I felt really stupid," she told the court in regard to a skit in
which she simulated a superior having a bowel movement. "I felt
immature. I felt this is what they do, and if I want to be on the SERT
team, I need to do it."
How sad. And how human. But Reyna made another mistake, as well. After
she quit the team, she didn't immediately explain what an ordeal it
had been for her. It took her several months to blow the whistle. From
the jury's standpoint, this, too, may have hurt Reyna's case, but
those who have been "the first" of their sex or race to join a group
may understand Reyna's reluctance.
The important thing is that Reyna did find the courage to risk her
career. Thanks to her, the team today has supposedly cleaned up its
act. That's likely a huge relief even to some of Reyna's former
colleagues, those who learned to simulate enjoyment of team stunts,
too, but (unlike Reyna) never had the guts to quit or blow the
The jury's finding is a big relief to the city, but it's not much of a
victory for the Portland Police Bureau or the Special Emergency
The verdict that really counts on this Superman squad is our
community's verdict. And that jury will be out so long as Reyna is the
first, last — and only — woman to join the team.