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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Portland Police Lieutenant Files $300,000 Civil Rights Suit Against Chief Reese

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Wed, Apr 23, 2014 at 7:15 PM

A Portland police lieutenant filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Chief Mike Reese and North Precinct Captain Chris Davis this afternoon, lobbing harsh claims about retaliation over a misconduct investigation she led against the captain nearly a decade ago—punishment, she says, that included capricious discipline and culminated in an unfairly denied promotion last year.

It's the latest legal headache for a bureau that's seen arguably too many emerge from its command staff over the past year and a half—including a text messaging scandal that snared controversial Nazi Germany history buff Captain Mark Kruger. It also marks another complaint against Reese alleging retaliation. The city settled with Officer Thomas Brennan in 2010 over his banishment to the property warehouse by former Chief Rosie Sizer, after he complained to Reese about Sergeant Kyle Nice.

The lieutenant in this case, Rachel Andrew, is seeking $300,000 in damages for lost pay and emotional distress, according to a copy of the complaint (pdf) obtained by the Mercury. Andrew is represented by attorney Sean Riddell, who's also representing Kruger and another controversial cop, Todd Wyatt. The lawsuit follows a Bureau of Labor and Industries complaint filed last year and obtained by the Mercury in a public records request.

Because the Mercury obtained the legal complaint after business hours, the city attorney's office could not be reached for comment. Reese, however, declined to comment, citing pending litigation.

The BOLI complaint (pdf) made the same claims about retaliation, but also included some more shocking allegations. Among them:

Reese, during a 2012 discipline hearing attended by his assistant chiefs and a representative from Mayor Sam Adams' office, twice asked Andrew to "demonstrate a male masturbation gesture" that had come up in her case. And that Reese's director of services and discipline czar, Mike Kuykendall, had offered Andrew a lighter punishment, 40 hours unpaid instead of 80, if only she'd agree not to press any retaliation claims in court.

But the allegations in the lawsuit, which stretch back to 2008, are far less salacious. They start about a year after Andrew says she recommended disciplining Davis over a complaint that he and a subordinate in the bureau's detectives division improperly used an informant.

She was applying to become a lieutenant on the detectives division that year. And she alleges Reese, then just commander of Central Precinct, had taken "exception with the depth of her investigation" of Reese and his subordinate. "Defendant Reese also informed Plaintiff that if she was selected for promotion that she should decline the promotion," the complaint says.

A few years later, the legal complaint says, Davis had moved to internal affairs and in 2010 began his own investigation into Andrew on a harassment claim and also a claim of untruthfulness—a potentially fireable offense.

The BOLI complaint makes clear that came from a struggle Andrew had with one of her subordinates, Sergeant Doug Justus. She'd accused Justus of yelling at her and sought an investigation of Justus—and Justus' denial that he yelled spun off into Davis' investigation of Andrew.

Both complaints say Ed Brumfield, the retired detectives division commander, wrote a memo clearing Andrew of untruthfulness after reviewing Davis' investigation. They then claim, however, that Davis—"without precedent"—wrote his own memo directly to Kuykendall suggesting the chief's office sustain the untruthfulness charge. The BOLI complaint says Davis never told Kuykendall about his history with Andrew when he took that action.

"Defendant Davis’ decision to investigation or recommendation to discipline Plaintiff in 2010 were motivated by Plaintiff’s 2006 and 2007 investigation and discipline recommendation of Defendant Davis," the legal complaint claims, accusing Davis of" ignoring critical facts that would exonerate" Andrew and "manipulating" his investigation. The BOLI complaint says Davis used a recording of Justus' conversation with Andrew that was missing a minute of footage.

Reese eventually disciplined Andrew, in June 2012. She filed a tort claim several months after and a pair of BOLI complaints in June 2013. She filed her second after a BOLI investigator said she wasn't specific enough in her claims. BOLI, in January 2014, didn't side with her—instead sending a 90-day "right to sue" letter over the claims Andrew had made.

While Andrew's BOLI complaints were being processed, in September 2013, the lawsuit says, she applied for a promotion to captain. The complaint says Andrews scored fifth out of 13 lieutenants—and that Reese passed her over for two officers who'd scored lower than her. One of those lieutenants, she alleges, was Davis.

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