Lawyer calls police probe whitewash
- Jennifer Anderson
- Portland Tribune - News
But 20 officers will receive reprimandsfor their conduct
Calling the Portland Police Bureau investigation into a sexual discrimination complaint against its Special Emergency Response Team 'a whitewash,' the lawyer for the police officer who filed the complaint says his client's next action will be a lawsuit.
Nearly 11 months after initiating an internal review into officer Liani Reyna's complaint against SERT, Chief Mark Kroeker last week announced that the investigation found no 'prohibited discrimination.'
'You can be certain we'll be taking further action,' said Steve Brischetto, attorney for Reyna, 32. 'We'll be pursuing (a pending Bureau and Labor Industries) complaint with the bureau and taking it to court.'
Reyna declined comment Monday. She and others involved in the case have been under a 'gag order' implemented by the police bureau. Kroeker said letters rescinding the order would be sent out Monday.
The in-house investigation did find some instances of 'inappropriate conduct,' Kroeker said. As a result, there is proposed discipline Ñ ranging from letters of reprimand to several days' suspension Ñ for 10 officers, six sergeants, two lieutenants and two captains.
Brischetto said Reyna is among those the bureau wants to send a letter of reprimand for her participation in sexually explicit and degrading skits at a mandatory SERT training camp at Camp Rilea on the northern Oregon coast.
'It's ridiculous,' he said. 'My reaction is that the investigation is a whitewash. The message we got was, 'Thanks for letting us know, and, by the way, you might get disciplined.' The real question is going to be how high up the discipline has gone, and who is being disciplined.'
Reyna, a Portland Police Bureau officer since December 1993, alleged that she faced a hostile, sexually charged workplace when she became the first and only woman on SERT in February 1999.
Among other things, Reyna claims that her coworkers and superiors required her to participate in the sexually oriented skits at Camp Rilea, that she was required to sing a lewd SERT cheer as a hazing activity, and was told to take home a SERT 'birthday idol' consisting of a statue of two men performing oral sex.
She claims that she was forced to resign from the team in November 2000. After leaving the team, she worked at the telephone reporting unit in North Precinct.
She filed a complaint March 22, 2001, and Kroeker initiated a high-level review March 23. The team was deactivated for several weeks while six sergeants and a lieutenant looked into the allegations.
'After a year,' Brischetto said, 'they've denied anything improper happened to officer Reyna. They've offered her no relief whatsoever, and instead they've notified her that she may be the subject of discipline herself.'
A learning experience
Kroeker held a news conference Friday and said the outcome of the review was driven by the core values of the police bureau: service, compassion, excellence, respect and integrity.
He insisted that the investigation was thorough, independent and solid. He added that while the investigation was a 'crisis' that demanded extensive time and resources, it also was a learning experience for the bureau.
Kroeker said he has Ñ and the city should have Ñ full confidence in SERT's ability to do its work.
Twenty officers and sergeants and eight members of the command staff will receive letters reminding them of the bureau's policy on nondiscrimination, and that they must conduct themselves professionally both on- and off-duty.
He said no one was removed from the team as a result of the eight-week investigation, which went back three years and included interviews with 76 individuals. It took at least 1,000 hours of overtime and considerable on-duty time, he said.
In her complaints, Reyna claimed that she was discriminated against because she is a female, a lesbian, and because bureau employees incorrectly thought that she had a medical disability. She also claimed that the city illegally retaliated against her because she complained about unlawful employment practices.
SERT is an elite, 26-member paramilitary crisis unit established in 1975 that is trained to respond to hostage and other crisis situations.