This Week in the Mercury


Monday, February 4, 2013

Texts Behind Police Official's Abrupt Resignation Call Controversial Captain a Nazi, Make Joke about Auschwitz

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Mon, Feb 4, 2013 at 2:44 PM

The so-called "unprofessional" text messages to a subordinate that led the Portland Police Bureau to announce the sudden resignation of Mike Kuykendall—the bureau's civilian director of services and Police Chief Mike Reese's bandmate and pal—have been revealed.

According to a letter (PDF) filed two weeks ago, as part of a newly revealed legal claim against the police bureau and city, Kuykendall was texting one-liners about Captain Mark Kruger—the Portland cop infamously disciplined in 2010 for curating an illegal shrine to Nazi Germany soldiers up at Rocky Butte. Kuykendall was texting the comments to Lieutenant Kristy Galvan, his former executive assistant who is now—apparently unhappily—working under Kruger.

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Kruger's attorney, Sean Riddell, sent the letter as one more step in a potential slander and harassment complaint and said "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." Kuykendall referred to himself as Galvan's protector.

The texts were shared with Riddell by the Portland Police Commanding Officers Association, the smaller of the city's two police unions. The letter was first reported this afternoon by the Oregonian.

Kruger got to keep his job and served only a two-week suspension. He was required to write a public apology and has professed all along he was merely interested in military history, not Nazism. A discipline letter from Reese ("Your conduct, the publicity surrounding it, and negative perceptions about its nature raise legitimate questions about your ability to be effective in your job") and Kruger's apology were released the same day in November 2010 that Reese fired Officer Ron Frashour.

Riddell wrote that Kruger had "fulfilled" the terms of his punishment, including taking part in sensitivity training and that Kuykendall's texts reeked of new and hidden discipline. But Kruger remains a provocative figure for community members and others, as recently as last fall drawing the ire of hackers with Anonymous after he was spotted helping county sheriff's deputies enforce an eviction.

Kuykendall on Friday, when his departure was announced, said he was trying to use "humor" in talking to Galvan, not yet identified publicly. Kuykendall has yet to return a message seeking further comment on the case. Captain Bryan Parman, who heads the bureaus' training division at the same time as he leads the PPCOA, also has yet to return a message seeking comment about his union's role in exposing the text messages.

Kuykendall, before working for Reese, championed the unconstitutional sit-lie ordinance as VP of the Portland Business Alliance. In the chief's office, he oversaw the bureau's budget as well as the divisions in charge of human resources and misconduct investigations. He was in that role when discipline for Kruger moved through Reese's desk in 2010.

As I noted Friday, this is another weird episode for a bureau that's been stung by news that Reese last year had merely demoted a former police captain that the bureau's own Police Review Board voted 5-1 to fire. It also comes right as the bureau faces, like all other city offices, deep and likely painful budget cuts. I've asked Mayor Charlie Hales' office if Hales, as police commissioner, has any new concerns about Reese's ability to lead the bureau amid all the turmoil. The short answer is that he doesn't, and a statement from the mayor along those lines, I'm told, will be forthcoming.

According to Hales' schedule, he's in the middle of his regular weekly meeting with the chief, coincidentally.

Update 3:54: Hales' spokesman, Dana Haynes, just sent over this statement from the mayor: “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. He has my full confidence.”

Update 4:25: Reese's office has announced a staffing shakeup in the wake of Kuykendall's resignation. Assistant Chief Eric Hendricks will take over Kuykendall's old job, leaving the Investigations branch. Commander Donna Henderson will be promoted to take over for Hendricks—breaking the grip white men have long held on Reese's inner circle but not quite delivering the person of color some activists have long been clamoring for.

Henderson, with 24 years at the bureau, was running the detectives division. She's previously been in charge of the Transit division and North Precinct. A city consultant's report put out after Portland paid $1.6 million in the death of James Chasse Jr. noted Henderson's stewardship of Transit at the time of Chasse's death and said she'd almost been investigated by internal affairs.

A training division report said the officers who chased and tackled Chasse didn't follow their training. Henderson wrote a memo sort of saying they did.

The official press release:

Commander Donna Henderson, a 24-year veteran of the Police Bureau, and current commander of the Detective Division, will be promoted to Assistant Chief and oversee the Investigations Branch.

Assistant Chief Eric Hendricks, who currently oversees the Investigations Branch, will move to the Services Branch.

Captain George Burke, a 20-year veteran, will be promoted to Commander and assigned to the Detective Division. Captain Burke currently oversees the Records Division.

Captain John Brooks, a 22-year veteran, will be assigned to the Records Division.

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