A former Portland cop is planning to sue the city over allegations she was effectively terminated in retaliation for "snitching" on an officer who was supposed to be training her.
The former cop, Officer Lindsay Hunt, says her coach officer told her to "look the other way" while he roughed up a suspect without probable cause. Her claim also describes a culture of silence permeating the Portland Police Bureau.
Hunt was hired as a Portland cop on July 27, 2006, and had been on the force for approximately one year when the alleged events occurred, according to her tort claim filed last October—which the Mercury obtained last Wednesday, February 27, from the city's Office of Management and Finance under the Freedom of Information Act.
On May 23, 2007, Hunt was assigned to Northeast Precinct under a new training coach, Officer Quency Ho, after completing Portland's 16-week "Advanced Academy" training.
Hunt alleges that on May 24, 2007, she and Ho responded to a call regarding a potential altercation at a residence in the area of NE 60th and Sandy. Another officer was on the scene, and took the lead in talking to the neighbors who called the police, as well as to the suspect, who was alone in his ground-floor apartment watching television. Based on his conversations with the neighbors and with the cooperative suspect, the other officer found a lack of probable cause and thanked the suspect for his time, according to the tort claim.
"After the suspect shut his door," the claim continues, "Offer Ho began trying to kick the door down. Ms. Hunt stopped Officer Ho. Officer Ho then drew his firearm, walked to the side of the apartment to an open window, and, pointing his gun at the suspect, demanded he unlock the front door.
"As the suspect began unlocking the front door, Officer Ho forced open the door and attacked the suspect, slamming him against the wall and putting him in a choke hold," the tort claim says. "After roughing him up for a while, Officer Ho left. There was no legal basis for this action. Ms. Hunt demanded that Officer Ho stop his illegal activity, but was ignored.
"Despite Ms. Hunt's plea that Officer Ho refrain from needlessly beating up civilians and that Officer Ho, at the very least, needed to fill out a use-of-force report for drawing a firearm, Officer Ho responded, 'If no one finds out, we won't get caught. Look the other way,'" the claim continues. "Ms. Hunt was stunned by Officer Ho telling her to keep quiet about the incident."
The tort claim also alleges Officer Ho refused to let Hunt hand in an accurate police report that contradicted his own "false account of the events" at another call, the following day.
Responding to a call about a suspect armed with a knife and a possible victim in a parking lot at 915 NE Schuyler, Hunt and Ho found the suspect there with his knife still extended, the claim alleges. Numerous witnesses were present, but the alleged victim had fled, leaving a bicycle behind. Hunt apprehended the knife-wielding suspect and handcuffed him, but Ho intervened.
"Since there's no victim, there's no crime," Ho allegedly told Hunt, before telling her to leave the bicycle at the scene, and asking one of the witnesses to dispose of the knife. On returning to the station, he is alleged to have handed in a false report.
The tort claim makes several other allegations about Officer Ho, including that he took goods several times without payment from the 7-Eleven at NE Weidler and 3rd, and told Hunt to do the same. He is also alleged to have told Hunt she was not "manly" enough to be a cop.
Hunt reported her concerns to the cops' training division but was allegedly told "you can have all the integrity you want in six months when you are no longer on probationary status if you keep your mouth shut," according to the tort claim.
Hunt also claims a training officer told her she was no longer physically safe and that if she ever needed backup, no Portland Police officer would respond because she was a "snitch." She says she was offered a transfer to Central Precinct but decided she would not be safe there either, and signed resignation paperwork.
Following Hunt's allegedly coerced resignation, her reputation as a "snitch" is said to have spread quickly through the police bureau because of defamatory statements made by cops, and in particular, thanks to an article in the July 2007 issue of the cop paper, the Rap Sheet.
"She was clearly looking for an excuse to quit," wrote Officer John Brogan, not referring to Hunt by name, but describing a scenario where "a trainee at Northeast Precinct recently quit after only three or four days with her coach."
Hunt's attorney, Matthew Ellis at Kell, Alterman & Runstein, has declined comment on the tort claim or on the contents of the Rap Sheet article. But police oversight activists are concerned.
"It doesn't surprise me that there is some form of corruption in the police bureau and that officers who try to expose that corruption are told that they have to go along with it," says Dan Handelman of activist group Portland Copwatch. "If what Ms. Hunt is alleging is true, then it's clear that officers are not encouraged to blow the whistle, and in fact, that it is dangerous for them to do so.
"I am surprised at the extent of the behavior she alleges—particularly the officer busting back into an apartment that another officer had cleared to point a gun at the suspect and rough him up, and then saying they weren't going to write a report," Handelman continues. "If that is a true allegation, then there is a serious culture of silence that needs to be addressed."
It is against the police bureau's policy to comment on pending litigation.