Former head of Portland police union fired over leaked false Hardesty news

PORTLAND — Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler has fired the former head of the city’s police union for leaking allegations against City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty in retaliation for her criticism of officers.

Wheeler, who serves as the city’s police commissioner, and Chief Chuck Lovell outlined the termination in a Feb. 28 letter to Brian Hunzeker, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported. The news outlet obtained a copy of the letter through a public records request Tuesday.

“While you did not agree that your actions were retaliatory,” the letter said, “based upon the information and statements contained in the record, I find that your actions violated the retaliation policy because of your admission in the investigation that you were motivated in part because of Commissioner Hardesty’s comments about the police during the 2020 protests.”

Hunzeker could not be reached for comment by the newspaper.

In a statement Tuesday, new Portland Police Association president Sgt. Aaron Schmautz called the decision a “mistake by the city” and said the union would seek to remedy it.

“In firing Officer Hunzeker, the city has inappropriately turned accountability into punitive sanctions. That is a step too far,” Schmautz said.

The police union can challenge the discipline by filing a grievance and arguing its case before an arbitrator.

Hunzeker’s firing comes nearly a year after a motorist incorrectly implicated Hardesty in a minor hit-and-run crash and months after Portland police completed its internal affairs investigation.

That investigation found Hunzeker provided information to media in a phone call and later provided a screenshot of an emergency call log that showed the motorist’s March 3, 2021 report, a bureau summary of the case found.

The police union president leaked that information in part, according to investigators, because of longstanding tensions between the bureau and Hardesty that escalated during Portland’s 2020 racial justice demonstrations.

“There were many reasons Officer Hunzeker cited as the driving factors for why he shared the information and one of those factors, he admits, was in response to Commissioner Hardesty’s false allegation about officers setting fires during the civil unrest,” wrote North Precinct Commander Kristina Jones.

In July 2020, Hardesty said she didn’t think protesters in Portland were setting fires in the city and that it was “a police action.” She also said police were sending “saboteurs and provocateurs” into crowds to justify their use of force. Hardesty apologized after meeting stiff pushback.

Two other officers — Kerri Ottoman and Ken Le — also leaked news of the investigation to others in violation of department policy, according to internal investigators. The mayor has yet to disclose any potential disciplinary action against them.

Hardesty was ruled out as a suspect in the crash on the day of the incident. The actual driver was a woman who lives in Vancouver, Washington, police and prosecutors said.

Article Source: The Columbian