POLICE CHIEF Mike Reese's recent statement that "inappropriate touching" by a demoted police captain wasn't "sexual in nature" appears to be drawn from a Portland Bureau of Human Resources investigation that reached the same conclusion way back in late 2011.
But that report, obtained through a records request and first reported by the Mercury last Friday, March 8, didn't spare now-Lieutenant Todd Wyatt from official opprobrium.
The report, and dozens of pages of redacted interview transcripts, all show investigators clearly believed Wyatt violated city harassment rules by touching three women in an "intimate" fashion, two of them his own employees. The report also raps Wyatt by noting his extensive training on the rules and says he "should have known" he was violating them.
"When someone crosses a boundary like that," said one of Wyatt's former employees, who told investigators she was touched, "I always wonder if it's a control issue, they're establishing the, you know, they're of higher importance or higher authority than you."
The chief's office declined to comment on the report, written in fall 2011 based on interviews with witnesses and complainants earlier that year.
The report includes the same phrase Reese invoked when the Oregonian's editorial board interviewed him last month: "There was no evidence that Wyatt's touching was sexual in nature," the report says.
Reese seized on that to justify a decision, since revoked, to put Wyatt in charge of the detectives who investigate sex crimes. Reese told the O he backtracked only because he loused up by not realizing one of the women Wyatt touched had already been transferred to the division. Wyatt was demoted not only for the touching, but also for an off-duty road-rage incident in which he showed his gun. The city's Police Review Board, also finding Wyatt untruthful, had urged Reese to fire the veteran supervisor.
The most scrutinized incident came during a 2010 contract negotiating session between a police bureau management team, led by Wyatt, and non-cop police employees represented by the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). A woman on the AFSCME team said Wyatt took the "back of his balled hand and touched me on my thigh" during introductory greetings.
"His hand just kind of lingered," she told investigators. "Um, and I looked, I asked, 'Hi, did he just touch me below my waist?'... And he said, 'Well, yeah.' And I got upset and I turned to one of the ladies that was sitting over from me, and I said, 'Did you see this joker just touched me below my waist?'"
The woman never told investigators she thought the touching was "done in a sexual manner," even when asked directly.
"It was too familiar for someone that I didn't even know to be touching me like that," she said. Instead? "I came to a conclusion that he was weird."
The investigator, Barry Renna, asked if she could be more "specific." But her short reply was redacted by the city attorney's office.
Similarly, the employee who said the touching bothered her also declined to say it was sexual—though she also said it was more akin to the touching expected from a "date" or "best friend." She said he rubbed the top of her thigh briefly. Another time, he touched her during a role-playing exercise about touching—in which Wyatt insisted he was allowed to touch employees if they didn't object.
The employee said she was recently promoted and didn't want to cause trouble by complaining.
The report also quotes a third woman, also an employee, who said she was touched but didn't mind it—saying it was something Wyatt did during conversation.
"I don't understand why anyone would be offended," she said.
Much of Wyatt's testimony was redacted. He said he "clearly" remembered the encounter during the bargaining session. And he remembered exercises with his employees when he said touching wasn't necessarily wrong.
"I touched the knuckle of my finger to the knee bone with about as much force as a ladybug landing on [a] knee, and I think we can all agree that there are little to no senses in the skin that goes over the knuckle of my hand," he said. "And frankly, I still don't think it's inappropriate, unless an employee says that they didn't like it, and as soon as they say they don't like it, I would say that should never happen again."
Then he claimed members of that woman's unit in AFSCME—men, two of them—told him something he paraphrased to the effect of: "That's crazy, she's crazy, don't worry about the rest of us, we're not crazy like her. And I said, 'Well, thank you very much, I will never stand near her ever again.'"
Wyatt has filed a tort claim against the city regarding his demotion. And his union, the Portland Police Commanding Officers Association, has filed a grievance.