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Friday, July 5, 2013

How Are Cops Punished Over Sexist Remarks? Review Board Data Offers Glimpse

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Fri, Jul 5, 2013 at 2:59 PM

Two days after Mayor Charlie Hales handed his public safety director, Baruti Artharee, just a one-week suspension for his suggestive comments about County Commissioner Loretta Smith at a city event last month, Daryl Turner of the Portland Police Association was quoted saying something provocative to Willamette Week's Andrea Damewood.

"I like Baruti; I've had good interactions and conversations with him," Turner says. "But I think it was less than a slap on the wrist. I think a police officer would have gotten much more discipline for the same kind of conduct. It's another example of our leaders, who are supposed to be held to a higher standard, being treated differently."

The WW post, published Wednesday, doesn't go beyond Turner's remarks. But the comments raise a brilliant question about how harassment and discrimination are treated in the cop shop. And, as it turns out, there are clues in the public Police Review Board reports that the bureau puts out twice a year. (The latest batch just came out this week—clearing cops, incidentally, in last year's police shootings of Jonah Potter and Bradley Morgan.)

For better or for worse, based on a reading of relevant cases—as well as exclusive Mercurydata (pdf) showing how Chief Mike Reese actually punishes cops rapped by the review board—it seems Artharee's discipline falls well in line with what unnamed cops have received in similar and even more egregious cases.

Part of Turner's point still holds. An at-will political employee should still be held to a higher standard than the people he's helping lead. Even the same standard really isn't good enough. But the data actually highlights another question: If Artharee's punishment really does meet the standard for rank-and-file cops, maybe the standard itself is too low.

Looking back at all five sets of reports released since July 2011, five cases stood out—besides the Todd Wyatt case, in which inappropriate touching was considered along with dishonesty and off-duty road rage, making the findings too hard to parse.

In three of the considered cases, it was possible to compare the review board's recommended discipline against what the chief ultimately imposed. Reese is free to exceed or come under the board's decision. For the other two, because they're in the most recent batch, that comparison isn't immediately possible.

We'll work from the most recent down to the oldest. Hit the jump.

Example No. 1:

Pages 12 and 13 of the July 2013 reports (pdf) detail a human resources investigation that conclusively found a female cop guilty of violating the same policy Artharee violated, with one comment in particular, about a male employee, "sexual in nature" and steeped in "gender bias." The same cop has an established history of bickering with subordinates and making inappropriate comments on racial lines.

Screen_shot_2013-07-05_at_1.52.42_PM.png

How did the board vote? One member wanted to fire her. Another wanted a one-week suspension. But three voted for just a half-week's suspension. Less than what Artharee got. How come? "The majority of the board" thought she'd been making a "good faith effort to improve her communication skills."

What did Reese mete out? Data showing whether Reese agreed with the board is not yet available.

Example No. 2:

Page 27 of the July 2013 report begins the tale of a cop accused of repeatedly making sexually suggestive comments to another employee. The board agreed he'd done so in both October and November 2011 and came close to agreeing it happened again that summer.

He'd also been accused, upheld by the board, of harassing a separate female employee in December 2011 by placing an object (redacted, but possibly some kind of sex or hygiene object) in that woman's locker. Worse, that was deemed an act of retaliation.

Screen_shot_2013-07-05_at_2.11.57_PM.png

How did the board vote? Four members decided to give him just a two-week suspension, while one thought a week was fair. Interestingly, the investigation substantiated more examples of on-the-job harassment than the city's report against Artharee (because, through a loophole, it wasn't clear that two of the substantiated other cases when he made comments about Smith occurred while he was representing the city).

What did Reese mete out? Data showing whether Reese agreed with the board is not yet available.

Example No. 3:

Page 12 in the January 2013 reports (pdf) brings us the story of a cop accused of making sexual comments and an unknown gesture to subordinates, while also, at other times, engaging in some inappropriate touching. The board unanimously agreed the touching was wrong. But it voted 4-1 that the gesture, but not the comments, was problematic.

Screen_shot_2013-07-05_at_2.19.58_PM.png

How did the board vote? That case was considered alongside some other allegations that were rejected by the board. But, based on the findings above, even the one about the touching (which Artharee wasn't accused of), the board still unanimously recommended a one-week suspension with remedial training and a stern letter from the chief.

What did Reese mete out? According to our data, the chief actually doubled up on the board's recommendation, ordering a two-week suspension without pay. Without a discipline letter, however, it's impossible to note why the chief decided to exceed the recommendation.

Example No. 4:

Page 47 of the January 2013 reports tells us all about a cop with some supervisory role having a more than three-year history of making comments about people's race, ethnicity, and gender—and also telling demeaning jokes about women in front of co-worker and subordinates.

Screen_shot_2013-07-05_at_2.31.36_PM.png

How did the board vote? Four members of the board thought a two-week suspension was appropriate, given the years of "previous transgressions" and the notion that "as a supervisor with considerable years of management experience, he should have known how to conduct himself within the purview of PPB professional standards." The other member thought a week's suspension—for all those years of comments—would be "fair" but also "defendable" in arbitration (something Artharee isn't entitled to). That way, the board member said, the case would send a message to the bureau that "professional behavior is of the utmost importance both internally and externally."

What did Reese mete out? Data shows Reese decided on a letter of reprimand. Meaning no unpaid suspension of any duration.

Example No. 5:

Page 21 of the January 2012 reports details complaints that a male cop "acted in a manner that was dismissive to women." This cop also made other unprofessional comments, the board found, and purposefully ignored the advice of a female colleague. The board stopped short of saying he discriminated against women, but came close.

Screen_shot_2013-07-05_at_2.41.01_PM.png

How did the board vote? The decision here was unanimous—and exactly what Artharee was given by Hales: a one-week suspension with a last-chance agreement promising the cop would be fired for any more sustained findings.

What did Reese mete out? Data shows the chief did away with the last chance agreement and just gave out the one-week suspension.

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