CURATING an illegal shrine to Nazi-era German soldiers in a park won't get an officer fired from the Portland Police Bureau. But getting exposed sending snarky text messages about that cop—trading one-liners that flat-out call him a Nazi—is another matter.
Mike Kuykendall, the bureau's civilian manager of financial matters and misconduct investigations, abruptly resigned on Friday, February 1, after the city got wind of several "unprofessional" texts mocking Captain Mark Kruger—the notorious cop merely suspended for his Aryan display up on Rocky Butte.
According to a letter filed by Kruger's attorney last month, part of a newly revealed legal claim, Kuykendall was going back and forth about Kruger with a former aide, Lieutenant Kristy Galvan, who was working, unhappily, under Kruger.
In one message, Kuykendall says Kruger hasn't "liked a book since he read Mein Kamph [sic]." In another, he jokes about the Nazi blitz of Poland. Galvan refers to working for Kruger as her "concentration camp situation" and says he'd be a good fit at Auschwitz.
"I accepted his decision to resign because I believe the police bureau needs to continuously work to meet the goal of achieving the highest possible level of community trust," Chief Mike Reese said in a statement announcing Kuykendall's departure.
Kuykendall, who said in a statement he was merely using "humor" to help a colleague through a tough spot, hasn't returned messages asking about his decision to step down.
But his departure comes at an especially awkward time at the police bureau. Deeply enmeshed in how to implement federally ordered use-of-force reforms, the bureau is also in the midst of navigating citywide budget cuts. Reese had entrusted both special projects to Kuykendall—a friend and political advisor who plays bass in Reese's dad-rock band, the Usual Suspects.
The renewed attention on Kruger, and his rise through the ranks despite the revelation of his shrine, should also provoke some pretty sharp questions about Reese and the issue of accountability at the top echelons of the bureau. Reese sparked community outrage in recent weeks when he demoted a police captain, Todd Wyatt, whom the bureau's own Police Review Board wanted to fire over allegations of lying, harassment, and road rage.
Of course no one high up at city hall, including Reese's boss, is biting—or speaking to specifics in the case.
"One of my three priorities upon taking office was to alter the culture at the Portland Police Bureau, and I am working with Chief Reese this year to accomplish that," says Mayor Charlie Hales, the city's police commissioner. "He has my full confidence."
But it's grossly clear there's been some toxic tension in the bureau's inner circle.
According to the Oregonian, which first published the letter detailing Kuykendall and Galvan's texts, Galvan had previously filed a workplace harassment claim against Kruger. Galvan, the paper reported, had been working in internal affairs in 2010 when Kruger's shrine was being reinvestigated. (The shrine was looked into several years before, but didn't re-emerge until City Commissioner Dan Saltzman took over as police commissioner.)
Kruger has since hired a private attorney, Sean Riddell, to advise him—in preparation for a legal fight of his own. Riddell's letter warns the city Kruger is considering harassment and slander claims. The letter says Kruger has "fulfilled" the terms of his punishment—including a two-week suspension, public apology, and sensitivity training—and that Kuykendall's comments point to extra discipline.
"It would appear that Mr. Kuykendall was planning on or used his position in the chief's office to protect Lt. Galvin [sic] or harm Captain Kruger," wrote Riddell, also demanding the city preserve official communiqués concerning his client.
(Riddell, ironically, was forced to quit the Oregon Department of Justice amid accusations he destroyed emails during a politically sensitive probe of the Oregon Department of Energy.)
Kruger has denied harboring any Nazi sympathies and has all along cast himself as a military buff who, despite his obvious passion for history, somehow didn't realize one of the German soldiers he honored had been tied to war crimes.
Adding to the drama is the Portland Police Commanding Officers Association (PPCOA)—the smaller of the city's two police unions—and the role it played in bringing Kuykendall down. The union, led by Reese's training division captain, Bryan Parman, first showed Riddell the text messages Galvan and Kuykendall were trading. It's a sticky situation, since both Galvan and Kruger are PPCOA members. Parman has not returned messages seeking comment.
The O also reported Tuesday that Galvan filed a tort complaint of her own against the city.
The complaint says she showed her texts with Kuykendall to internal affairs investigators, but despite assurances they would be kept confidential, the messages somehow wound up in the hands of the PPCOA.
The complaint also details accusations of harsh treatment by Kruger and other commanders—including an admonition by Kruger that she watch a World War II television show, ahem, and act more like a man.
Even stranger is the notion that this might make Kuykendall—a former vice president of the Portland Business Alliance and a deputy district attorney—a slightly more likeable figure. Kuykendall, as a vociferous champion for the city's unconstitutional sit-lie sidewalk law, earned the intense ire of civil liberties advocates.
Reese, hours after the texts were revealed, also announced a staffing shakeup. The big headline? He's promoting Commander Donna Henderson to assistant chief. Henderson, you might remember, defended the officers who tackled and beat James Chasse Jr.