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Investigation documented 3rd Portland officer who leaked false Hardesty hit-and-run report

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A months-long internal affairs investigation into a law enforcement leak found officers Brian Hunzeker, Kerri Ottoman and Ken Le responsible for leaking false information implicating Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty in a hit-and-run, according to a Disposition letter sent to Hardesty in October. .

Despite months of speculation, the letter, which both Hardesty and the city did not want published, provides the first public confirmation of the facts behind the leak.

The letter addresses seven allegations involving three Portland police officers. According to the letter, the investigation found that Hunzeker leaked the false allegations to an Oregonian / OregonLive reporter and provided them with a screenshot of a dispatch report indicating that Hardesty had been involved in a traffic accident in March. That information was incorrect. Ottoman leaked the same information to Gabriel Johnson, director of the conservative Coalition to Save Portland PAC. The investigation also found that he leaked the information to a friend from the Office of Emergency Communications who works as a dispatcher.

Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty listens to testimony about a proposed ordinance on April 4, 2019.

Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty listens to testimony about a proposed ordinance on April 4, 2019.

Kaylee Domzalski / OPB

Officer Hunzeker acknowledged sharing information about an ongoing criminal investigation with a member of the media in a telephone conversation that he initiated, and then provided a screenshot of the CAD call to the reporter, which he admitted was a violation. of this directive. ”Wrote Northern District Commander Kristina Jones in the investigation.

The investigation confirmed that Hunzeker’s actions were in retaliation for Hardesty speaking negatively about the police office.

The investigation did not confirm that the leaks were racially motivated.

Although the investigation is complete, the recommended discipline is not yet public.

Hardesty received a copy of the letter as a private citizen who had filed a complaint with the city of Portland. In October, he refused to release the letter through his personal attorney, who told OPB that he did not believe it was in his client’s interest. The OPB appealed the Portland city attorney’s claim that the letter was exempt from public records laws. On Wednesday, Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt agreed that posting the letter was in the public interest.

“This matter has been pending for 10 months, during which time it has been subject to intense scrutiny and speculation in most major local media outlets,” Schmidt’s order states. “We conclude that the public interest requires immediate disclosure of the summary factual information contained in the disposition letters.”

Hardesty filed a lawsuit against Hunzeker, Ottoman, the Portland Police Association, and the city of Portland on December 13. Despite being in possession of the letter published Thursday, the complaint provided little evidence to support its accusations against Hunzeker and Ottoman.

His lawsuit seeks $ 3 million from the Portland Police Association and $ 1 million each from Hunzeker and Ottoman. The lawsuit also seeks $ 1 from the city of Portland and a statement that it violated Hardesty’s right to be free from “distinctions, discrimination or restrictions based on race.”

Hardesty’s lawsuit alleges that officers showed up at his home at 1 a.m. and banged heavily on his door. A tort lawsuit filed in August alleges that the intent was to do a “felon walk” with Hardesty as a show of force against an outspoken critic of the office.

“Despite the fact that the information provided was objectively unreasonable, highly suspicious, and likely unknown racially motivated employees, including, based on information and belief, PPB Officer Brian Hunkezer, mistakenly leaked the information to other city employees and to the press ”, the claim reads. “The leaks were made with the intention of discrediting Ms. Hardesty because of her race and in retaliation for decades of opposition to racial profiling by the PPB against her fellow citizens.”

The allegations stem from a 911 call in which a person falsely identified Hardesty as the driver of a vehicle that rear-ended her at an intersection in southwest Portland. Hardesty was quickly exonerated, but not before the indictment was leaked and reported in the conservative media and on the Oregonian / OregonLive.

The office’s internal affairs division conducted a months-long investigation into the leak. The city also hired Grupo OIR, a Los Angeles-based firm that specializes in policing, to conduct an external investigation.

Those investigations concluded in October. The Portland Police Review Board met in October to review those investigations and determine what discipline Hunzeker and other officers involved face.

The voting members of the board consist of three members of the police office, the director of the Independent Police Review and one member of the community.

At the time of the leak, Hunzeker was the newly elected president of the Portland Police Association, the union that represents rank-and-file officers. He took over leadership of the union about two weeks before voters approved a new police oversight board by a wide margin. The board, championed by Hardesty and fiercely opposed by the union, promised to be an independent civilian group with discipline and firefighting authority.

The political fight for the new board strained an already strained relationship between the union and Hardesty, a longtime critic of the bureau who has advocated for more rigorous accountability and policing alternatives.

The leak also came amid contract negotiations with the police union, a push in Salem to pass legislation facilitating the transition to the voter-approved oversight board, and as city officials debated budget cuts. from the police office.

Less than two weeks after the hit-and-run and subsequent leak, Hunzeker resigned as president of the police union, bringing his five-month term to an unexpected and inexplicable closure.

The union’s announcement said only that Hunzeker had made “a serious and isolated error related to the Police Office’s investigation into the alleged hit-and-run of Commissioner Hardesty.”

The union did not provide details, but stated that Hunzeker “has been held responsible by resigning his position as president of the PPA with immediate effect.”

The mysterious resignation led to months of speculation. After briefly returning to patrol duty, Hunzeker received a paid administrative leave in June.

The details of Hunzeker’s license and investigation have been a closely guarded secret for the past 10 months, a common occurrence in police misconduct investigations. People familiar with police discipline and union contract requirements said secrecy is necessary to ensure that an arbitrator does not overturn the investigation, should the union decide to challenge the results.

The leak also prompted an investigation into two 911 dispatchers at the city’s Office of Emergency Communications. That investigation found that dispatchers were not involved in the leak, but did gossip about the incident to co-workers in violation of office policies. The two dispatchers were suspended. A third dispatcher received training for an unspecified minor infraction.

Disciplining the president of the police union, who is a sworn officer but serves full time as the union president during his tenure, is rare and has proven difficult in the past due to what the city human resources director called it a “special relationship” in 2014.

At the time, then-President of the Police Association, Daryl Turner, was accused of intimidating an investigator from the Independent Police Review and filing complaints against the group to obstruct its investigations.

City auditor Mary Hull Caballero, who oversees the IPR, told the Oregonian / OregonLive that the behavior was intended to chill and obstruct independent investigations into the police.

The allegations against Turner were ultimately not investigated due to his “special relationship” with the city.

The US Department of Justice disagreed with that ambiguity in its status report on the 2015 settlement.

“Rather than assume that a ‘special relationship’ warrants the lack of an investigation, the City should develop a robust factual record to determine whether the allegations occurred,” the DOJ wrote in the annual report. “The City’s refusal to conduct a full investigation of the bullying allegations undermines public confidence in the PPB and thus unfairly clouds the public perception of all officers.”

If Hunzeker is ultimately disciplined, the ambiguous relationship between the president of the police union and the city may become sharper.

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