CAPTAIN MARK KRUGER was relieved to learn city investigators had cleared him of an ex-subordinate's scathing harassment claims last spring—part of a case so hot, thanks to texts mocking Kruger's well-publicized affinity for Nazi-era German soldiers, it shook up the police bureau's command staff.
The letter from the Portland Bureau of Human Resources clearing Kruger was dated April 29, 2013. And it should have been the end of things—at least as far as discipline was concerned. But Kruger wasn't quite able to let things go.
Two weeks later, on May 13, news broke in the Oregonian that the subordinate who complained about Kruger, Kristy Galvan, had been demoted to sergeant. Worse, as Kruger saw it, the story dramatically re-aired Galvan's harassment claims—never mind that it also mentioned the letter that cleared him.
The next morning, Kruger photocopied the exoneration letter. He wrote Galvan's name on it—in red ink—and stuck it on his office door in East Precinct. It was visible not only to the scores of cops who work in the police bureau's largest outpost, but also to visitors. He says he wanted people to know the truth. His "reputation," he worried, was being "trashed in the media."
"I should have taken the high road and just sucked it up and let it go, but I felt under pressure," Kruger would tell investigators.
But that's not how Galvan saw it. A few days later, on Friday, May 17, a close associate sent Galvan a photo of the letter, still posted on Kruger's door. Galvan, horrified, drove from her home to East Precinct a few hours later and snapped her own photos. She sent them to the chief's office over the weekend.
Her complaint? Retaliation—something the city says it takes extremely seriously. Except, in this case, when it didn't.
Galvan's complaint was handled cursorily by police brass who reportedly conspired to shut down a formal investigation, according to new documents obtained by the Mercury. That investigation started only when the city's Independent Police Review (IPR) Division, working for the city auditor, stepped in instead.
"It was like he was gloating. He wanted to embarrass me," Galvan told investigators a few weeks later.
"It was like I had already been demoted. He was kicking me while I was down. He wanted to show everybody like he felt he had won. I think he wanted to show off. I just felt like it was more of the same....
"I feel like no matter how much I complain, it's like he... he's just going to win. I feel betrayed. I feel like a victim."
Galvan's testimony is cited heavily in a formal investigation report prepared by the IPR. That report, obtained by the Mercury via public records request, is a rare public look at the particulars of another uncomfortable story for the police bureau.
And it's also the first glimpse of how IPR is wielding its newly enhanced ability to conduct independent probes of police employees in cases where the bureau can't. Or won't.
As such, the report raises serious questions about the bureau's willingness to honestly investigate itself without someone else looking on. Kruger told investigators that Chief Mike Reese's office and the city attorney's office "had gotten together and decided it was not retaliation" before interviewing him or anybody else, including Galvan.
The Mercury first published the document on April 30—after weeks of waiting, in part because both Kruger and Galvan have threatened to sue the city. (The Oregonian first reported last year that Galvan had complained about Kruger posting the letter.)
Written last August, the report does not include a recommended finding or mention any discipline outcomes—which means it's possible Kruger has since been cleared.
A police spokesman didn't comment by press time. Human resources officials deferred to the city attorney's office, which declined to return a message seeking comment. Attorneys for Kruger and Galvan also declined to return messages.
But even if Kruger was cleared, the report still paints an unflattering picture of police accountability.
Daryl Turner, the president of the Portland Police Association, is quoted strongly condemning Kruger's actions—suggesting a dispiriting familiarity with this kind of claim. Turner, whose union represents rank-and-file officers, accompanied Galvan to her interview.
"This was a totally 100 percent retaliatory act by the captain," Turner told investigators. (Turner also declined to comment, citing the threat of litigation. He also seemed surprised the Mercury had received the report through a records request.)
But maybe the most damning comment comes from the officer who first alerted Galvan to the letter on Kruger's door. She didn't like what she saw, calling it "absurd" and "ridiculous." She also felt like Kruger was "flaunting" his exoneration. But she took only the one picture and refused to do anything more.
She was worried she might also become a target.
"I kind of would like to stay out of it," she told Galvan, according to the report. "I know how this bureau works. I've worked here for 15 years and things are going fairly smoothly and I'd like to keep it that way."
The Oregonian first reported senior command staff's reticence to investigate Kruger last year. But the IPR report made public by the Mercury adds some eyebrow-raising details.
Beyond Kruger's mention of the meeting between the chief's office and city attorney's office, he said he also was told which questions he'd face during an informal interview and the kinds of answers officials would be seeking: namely, assurances he never meant to retaliate.
Kruger said that information came from Bob Day, commander of Central Precinct and a senior member of the Portland Police Commanding Officers Association. Kruger said no one from the chief's office ever actually questioned him.
"It got into IPR's purview" after that, he said, "and it became a formal investigation."
Chief Reese was troubled enough, however, that he called Kruger's boss, now-retired Commander Mike Lee, the Monday after Galvan complained and ordered Lee to take the letter down. Lee told Reese he'd already removed it—after hearing from another Portland Police Commanding Officers Association official, Training Division Captain Bryan Parman, the day before.
Kruger told investigators he and Lee never discussed how Kruger might "handle the information" that he'd been cleared.
"To avoid all this hoopla," Kruger later told investigators "I just wouldn't do it."
Lee echoed Kruger's comments. Posting the letter amounted to a "clarification," not "retaliation," he said.
Lee also told investigators he hadn't noticed much about the letter before Parman and Reese called—including Galvan's name in red ink—and that they hadn't discussed it previously.
But a desk clerk at East Precinct told a very different story in her interview. She remembered Kruger telling Lee he was planning on posting the letter—that they spoke about it while Kruger was making a photocopy. She said they might not have been aware she was listening to them.
Investigators tried to tease out how many people might have known about the letter in the days before it was posted. Kruger said a few cops walked by and gave him a "thumbs up." Galvan's friend, the cop who first tipped her off about the letter, said it had come up among officers outside East Precinct.
Galvan told investigators she twice emailed the chief's office, over a couple of weeks, before even hearing an investigation was being contemplated. Her first email was sent May 19 with the photos. She wrote the chief's office again May 30. Captain Dave Famous, in charge of internal affairs, wrote back less than hour later to tell her IPR was investigating.
Galvan, who now works under Commander Bob Day at Central Precinct, said she thought about taking the letter down when she drove over to take the photograph. She was surprised no one else had done it first.
"Anybody could have taken it down," she says. "There were other people who were offended."