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Monday, February 22, 2010

BREAKING: Campbell Shooting's Missing Sergeant—Why Wasn't SERT Team Called?

Posted by Matt Davis on Mon, Feb 22, 2010 at 5:14 PM

The Mercury may be a little closer this afternoon to answering one of the most outstanding questions in the Campbell shooting. Why wasn't Sergeant Liani Reyna—the supervisor on scene at the Campbell shooting—called before the Grand Jury to testify? And why didn't Reyna call in the Bureau's Special Emergency Response Team (SERT) once a child hostage situation involving a suicidal man with a gun began to unfold?

It's extremely common to call out SERT—the Portland version of a "SWAT" team—in any hostage situation. For example, SERT was called in immediately to intervene in the 2005 incident involving Raymond Gwerder. Not that it made any difference: A sniper on the SERT team shot Gwerder in the back while he was on the phone to a hostage negotiator, just as Officer Ron Frashour shot Campbell after he had been asked to come out of his apartment by a negotiator in this latest case. But why didn't Sergeant Reyna call in SERT promptly, this time?

One possible reason has emerged from court documents obtained by the Mercury this afternoon: It turns out that Reyna has a long-standing sex discrimination beef with the SERT team, including a bitter and drawn-out legal battle with the Portland Police Bureau, which included the City of Portland placing a lien on Reyna's Tigard home and garnering $16,000 in wages in an attempt to recover costs from the case—as recently as 2006.

In 1999, Reyna became the first female police officer to join the SERT team, but resigned in 2002 and then sued the bureau, alleging sex discrimination, a sexually hostile workplace, and retaliation.

Reyna lost a nine-day Federal trial related to the discrimination suit in 2005, but she didn't end things there. Instead she took the case to the ninth circuit court of appeals, alleging that the judge did not ensure a fair trial. Reyna also alleged that the bureau had spoiled and destroyed records relating to her selection to the SERT team. The appeals court once again ruled against Reyna in April 2008.

"As the first woman on the Police Bureau's SER Team, Reyna was exposed to sexist practices that defendants admit were puerile and disgusting," reads the ninth circuit ruling obtained by the Mercury this afternoon. "It appears that she did not object to the SER Team's practices for a while and finally resigned from the Team after a health incident that raised questions concerning her fitness."

Reyna also filed a complaint of sex discrimination, harassment and retaliation against the City of Portland with the Bureau of Labor and Industries in 2004. BOLI wound up dropping the case because Reyna informed them she would be pursuing the city in civil court. Documentation from BOLI is here. More after the jump.

The Federal Court awarded former Police Chief Mark Kroeker and the City of Portland $18,598.15 in costs in the 2005 case. In April 2006, the city garnished $16,135.82 from Reyna's wages, and claimed a lien on her property in Tigard for an additional $2,620—in order to claim its damages. Reyna challenged the move in court and was ultimately given back the garnered wages, according to court documents. As far as the court documents show, Sergeant Reyna could still be paying back the liability from her court case today.

Because the case was filed in 2002, many documents are unavailable online. But the Mercury has today requested files from the Reyna case to be shipped down to Portland from a Federal Court warehouse in Seattle—they should be here by Friday and we will update this story then.

If Reyna didn't call the SERT team out because of lingering bitterness over an unsuccessful discrimination claim, then the lack of diversity in the Portland Police Bureau is an even more significant angle in the Campbell shooting story than it has been, so far.

Citing racial disparities within the bureau City Commissioner Dan Saltzman has spoken repeatedly over recent days about trying to recruit a police bureau that "reflects the city as a whole." Meanwhile Reverend Jesse Jackson said on his visit last week that domestic violence calls should be answered by "one man, and one woman" police officer. The police chief, herself, has been quoted in this newspaper saying that "the police bureau deals well with gender." Just down the road, the only black police officer in Gresham recently resigned her post over alleged race and sex-based discrimination.

Portland Police Association boss Scott Westerman says the decision to call in SERT may not have been up to Sergeant Reyna, but Captain Bob Day, who came onto the scene after Reyna had arrived.

"The internal investigation into this incident is going to address things that the Grand Jury did not hear or consider," says Westerman. "It's going to identify the alleged communication deficiencies, including the transfer of command from the sergeant on the scene to the captain on the scene. The investigation will determine who should have called in SERT, and when."

Westerman only represents rank and file membership in his role as PPA president: Reyna falls under his remit, but command staff like Day do not.

Efforts to reach Reyna and Day through the police bureau have so far been unsuccessful. Police spokesperson Mary Wheat is yet to return a page, and District Attorney Mike Schrunk is also yet to return a call for comment asking whether his Deputy District Attorneys were aware of Reyna's court history against the city and SERT team, before they chose not to call her before the Grand Jury.

Police Commissioner Dan Saltzman's chief of staff is yet to return a call for comment, although Commissioner Saltzman said on Friday that the failure to call Reyna before the Grand Jury was "troubling." We've put a call in to Mayor Sam Adams' spokesman and may have a statement from his office shortly. Updates as we have them.

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