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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Report Details Police Watchdog's Investigation into Retaliation Claim Against Controversial Captain

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Wed, Apr 30, 2014 at 4:28 PM

Captain Mark Kruger said he'd already known for a few days, last May, that Portland's Bureau of Human Resources had cleared him of scathing harassment claims filed by a former subordinate—a case so hot, thanks to text messages mentioning Kruger's well-publicized shrine to Nazi-era German soldiers, it shook up the Portland Police Bureau's command staff.

The letter of exoneration was dated April 29, 2013, and it should have been the end of things, at least as far as the discipline process was concerned. But Kruger wasn't quite willing to let things go.

Almost two weeks later, on May 13, the Oregonian reported that the subordinate who complained about Kruger, then-Lieutenant Kristy Galvan, had been demoted to sergeant. The story also aired anew all the claims Galvan brought up against Kruger, even as it mentioned the letter clearing him of those complaints. And Kruger had enough, he says.

The next morning, he took the letter, wrote Galvan's name on it in red marker, and stuck it on his office door in East Precinct—visible to visitors and the dozens of cops who work in one of the police bureau's largest outposts. He says he wanted people to know the truth.

"I should have taken the high road and just sucked it up and let it go, but I felt under pressure," Kruger said a month later. "I can't adequately explain to you how stressful this whole thing has been and having... your reputation trashed in the media through these allegations. And it just was exceptionally important to me that information pertaining to me specifically could get out."

But that's not how Galvan saw it. Days later, another officer sent Galvan a photo of the letter, still prominent on Kruger's door. It was a message meant for other officers—and many had seen it. Galvan drove from her home to take her own photos. The next day, she filed a complaint with the chief's office. The charge? Retaliation against a complainant in an investigation—something the city takes extremely seriously.

"It was like he was gloating. He wanted to embarrass me," Galvan said. "It was like I had already been demoted. He was kicking me while I was down. He wanted to show everybody like he felt he had won. I think he wanted to show off. I just felt like it was more of the same....

"I feel like no matter how much I complain, it's like he... he's just going to win. I feel betrayed. I feel like a victim."

Both of those statements come directly from the Independent Police Review's investigation report into Galvan's claim—a rare public look at the particulars of another uncomfortable story for the police bureau, and the first glimpse of how IPR is wielding its newly enhanced ability to conduct independent probes of police employees in cases the bureau either can't or won't.

It also raises questions about the bureau's interest in pursuing harassment and retaliation complaints—with Kruger telling investigators that the chief's office and city attorney's office "had gotten together and decided it was not retaliation" before ever interviewing him. He cited Central Precinct Commander Bob Day for that tidbit.

The Mercury obtained the document this afternoon after weeks of waiting, in part because both Kruger and Galvan have threatened to sue the city. (The Oregonian first reported last year that Galvan had complained about the letter.)

Written last August, it does not include a recommended finding or any discipline outcomes. Both of those remain the province of the police and human resources bureaus. Instead, it contains dozens of pages of unvarnished interviews with Kruger, Galvan, and junior and senior police officials. The picture that emerges isn't flattering.

The president of the Portland Police Association, Daryl Turner, doesn't hesitate to call balls and strikes—suggesting a dispiriting familiarity with this kind of claim. He was representing Galvan and was with her when she was interviewed.

"This was a totally 100 percent retaliatory act by the captain," Turner is quoted as saying. (Turner declined to comment, citing pending litigation. He also seemed surprised I'd received the report.)

But an even more damning comment comes from the officer who first alerted Galvan to what she saw on Kruger's door. She didn't like what she saw, calling it "absurd" and "ridiculous" and that she felt like Kruger was "flaunting" his exoneration. But she took only the one picture and was leery to do any more.

Why not? She worried she'd become the next target.

"I kind of would like to stay out of it," she reportedly told Galvan. "I know how this bureau works. I've worked here for 15 years and things are going fairly smoothly and I'd like to keep it that way."

Human resources staffers deferred to the city attorney's office for comment on whether and/or what discipline might have arisen from the investigation. A police bureau spokesman, Sergeant Pete Simpson, said he was looking into what the bureau might be able to share.

The report also adds details to something that emerged in a related investigation reported on by the O last year, after the letter was put up: The chief's office had no intention of even investigating Galvan's retaliation claim—provided Kruger assured them he didn't intend to retaliate. And Kruger was well aware of that when he sat down with investigators.

Kruger says Day—the Central Precinct commander and a Portland Police Commanding Officers Association executive—told him the questions he'd face, while also telling him the chief's office didn't want to investigate if it didn't have to.

"It got into IPR's purview" after that, Kruger said, "and it became a formal investigation."

The chief's office was angry enough, however, that Reese called Kruger's boss, now-retired Commander Mike Lee, and ordered him to take the letter down. Lee said he hadn't noticed it in much details before, he says. And Kruger claims he never discussed it with his boss.

A desk clerk at East Precinct, however, told a different story. She says she heard Kruger telling Lee he was planning on posting the letter—that they spoke while Kruger was making a photocopy of the letter—but neither Kruger nor Lee would admit to that kind of discussion in their interviews.

Lee echoed Kruger, that he thought it was a "clarification," not "retaliation." He said he didn't realize until later that Galvan's name was written on it.

Lee said he told Reese he'd already taken the letter down, telling Kruger, "This has run its course. It's not to go back up." He said another PPCOA official, Training Division Captain Brian Parman, had already called him on Sunday to tell him it was a bad idea to leave the thing up. Lee sort of admitted he should have done something to take it down sooner.

Lee also said Reese was concerned that Kruger's exoneration letter was now public, not realizing the Oregonian had reported it. Lee, in fact, sent Reese a link to the story. Reese was keen to know how the daily paper got the letter, and Lee told him Kruger's attorney had sent it over. Reese was not interviewed as part of the investigation.

A major issue in the interviews was whether the city's retaliation policy requires confidentiality among affected parties. It does not. It merely aspires to it. That means Kruger wasn't banned outright from sharing the letter.

He claims he affixed Galvan's name on it so he could file it appropriately after taking it down and letting everyone know he'd been cleared—almost as if to say he'd received so many letters of exoneration that he required the extra information because he might become confused.

Galvan told investigators she emailed the chief's office twice before hearing an investigation was being contemplated. She'd emailed Saturday, May 18, getting some attention and setting up the actions that got the letter pulled down. She'd emailed again May 30 when she hadn't heard anything.

"I had to email them a second time before I got a response," she said.

Galvan, who'd since been transferred under Day in Central Precinct, thought about taking the letter down when came to photograph it that Friday. She was surprised no one else had done it first.

"Anybody could have taken it down," she says. "There were other people who were offended."

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