IT'S UNDERSTANDABLE that Mayor Charlie Hales might want to stop dwelling on the Portland Police Bureau's "past," only a few weeks after he signed a "distasteful" legal settlement that officially erased one of the bureau's ugliest chapters: punishment for a captain who erected a shrine to Nazi-era German soldiers and then, years later, retaliated against a former subordinate who'd accused him of harassment.
After all, the most sensational part of what was wiped away long preceded Hales' administration.
Captain Mark Kruger was suspended back in 2010 over years-old allegations he erected the shrine on Rocky Butte—also agreeing, at the time, to apologize and forgo the chance of an appeal.(Commissioner Dan Saltzman, serving as police commissioner through 2009 and the early part of 2010, wound up ordering that investigation. Punishment came in late 2010, under then-Mayor Sam Adams.)
"The important thing is moving forward with reforms," says Hales' spokesman, Dana Haynes. "We're going to change the way the police, as an organization, not as an individual, relates to the community."
But the rest of what was magicked away wasn't all that long ago.
In fact, the whole reason Kruger even threatened to sue the city—the bureau's former civilian head of investigations mocked Kruger as a Nazi in texts that went public—came just before Hales' stint as police commissioner.
And the now-vanished (and equally mismanaged) retaliation claim that followed that initial case fell firmly under Hales' watch.
Neither of those should be seen as part of the police bureau's past; they're part of its present. And without deeper changes, they'll also mark its future.
Kruger, after he was cleared of harassment last summer, triumphantly posted the letter saying so on his old office door. He'd even written the complainant's name at the top of the thing, using a red marker.
It was an obvious complaint, substantiated by both the Bureau of Human Resources and the cops' own Police Review Board. But if a bureau whistleblower didn't leak it to the city's Independent Police Review (IPR) for an outside investigation, nothing would have happened.
Senior commanders, according to an investigative report obtained by the Mercury, had met with the city attorney's office and preemptively decided that Kruger's actions didn't amount to retaliation.
"The mayor is fully aware of those issues and that timeline," says Haynes.
And yet the settlement Hales approved—reluctantly, as he's said repeatedly—creates an official record in which none of that attempted manipulation ever happened.
Constantin Severe, the director of IPR, kindly wouldn't say whether the city erred in wiping away the retaliation case his office wound up championing. But he did mention one real and immediate ripple: broken trust.
"We have a hard enough time, when people bring us credible allegations of misconduct, persuading them to pursue the case," Severe says. "I don't think it's made it easier for people to come forward."
Hales shouldn't wait to rebuild that trust. A fine start would be some kind of sanction for Chief Mike Reese—if not outright dismissal—given his ultimate responsibility for this scandal and others as head of the bureau.
That would send the strongest message possible, to both cops and civilians, that fair play in our discipline system is paramount.
"No comment," Haynes told me when asked if that was in the offing.
Fine. But here's hoping that doesn't mean it won't be. You know... in the future.