Portland City Council will vote Wednesday to pay $85,000 to settle a 2020 lawsuit filed by a member of Portland Police Bureau (PPB) accusing the city of employment discrimination and retaliation.
James Crooker, who now serves as a Police Captain, made a slate of allegations against city and PPB leadership in his 2020 lawsuit.
First, he accused the city of failing to give him preferential treatment for promotions in both 2017 and 2020 due to his status as a veteran (Oregon law requires public employees give employment preference to veterans). Second, he accused PPB management of not promoting him because he is Hispanic. Then, he accused PPB of retaliation after Crooker filed a nepotism complaint against then-Chief Jami Resch—accusing Resch of wrongly promoting her fiancé to a PPB position he wasn't qualified for. Crooker says his pay was docked and he was denied a shot at a promotion shortly after making this complaint.
Crooker also cited retaliation for being put on administrative leave after advocating for his wife, a victim in an assault case, while wearing his PPB uniform. Crooker's wife and two others were assaulted and chased by a man in Sellwood in 2019. Crooker complained that detectives took the suspect to behavioral health treatment instead of jail after his arrest, an issue he again brought up while attending a meeting with his wife at the district attorney's office regarding her case.
Crooker had attended the meeting to support his wife as a member of the public, not as a representative of PPB, but wore his uniform to the meeting. Crooker said he was given permission by his supervisor to wear the uniform. His role and advocacy in the meeting was reported and reviewed in an internal investigation by PPB, and prompted him to be placed on leave by Resch. During his time on leave, Crooker missed another promotion.
Crooker's lawsuit demanded that the city pay out more that $3 million to compensate him for lost wages, emotional damages, and attorney's fees.
Instead, the city has agreed to settle the lawsuit for a much lower $85,000, splitting the check between Crooker and his attorney. The settlement comes to council after the city's Risk Management Services determined that the city could be found guilty for Crooker's accusations before a jury. "Therefore, in order to avoid the risk of an adverse jury award, we feel it is prudent to compromise the lawsuit at this time," reads the ordinance that heads to a council vote Wednesday.
Crooker currently earns more than $181,000 annually as a captain, according to 2021-22 city salary data recently published by the Oregonian.