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Police Officer Fired for Hardesty Leak

Discrimination, harassment and retaliation found

Former Portland police officer and union president Brian Hunzeker was fired Tuesday for leaking allegations against City Commissioner JoAnn Hardesty. (Portland Police Association photo)

The former head of Portland’s police union was fired Tuesday for leaking allegations against City Commissioner JoAnn Hardesty, the first Black woman to serve on the City Council and a lifelong advocate for police reforms.

Portland Mayor Ted 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 officer involved.

Lovell had recommended a 12 week suspension without pay rather than termination, but was overruled by the mayor.

The termination letter, obtained through public records requests by the Willamette Week and the Oregonian, said Hunzeker violated two bureau directives, the improper dissemination of information and for violating policies against discrimination, harassment and retaliation.

His firing comes nearly a year after a motorist incorrectly implicated Hardesty in a minor hit-and-run crash that barely left any sign of damage, and months after Portland police completed its internal affairs investigation.

Hardesty was ruled out as a suspect in the crash on the day of the incident. Her car was parked in her home’s driveway, having not been used or damaged. The actual driver was a woman who lives in Vancouver, police and prosecutors later said.

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.

North Precinct Commander Kristina Jones determined Hunzeker’s actions were retaliatory in her earlier investigation of the incident.

“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 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. Ottoman received one day of suspension without pay, and Le received a letter of reprimand.

The police union called Hunzeker’s firing a mistake and was considering appealing the decision to arbitration, saying Hunzeker apologized and held himself accountable by stepping down as union president.

Hardesty has a $5 million lawsuit pending against Hunzeker, Ottoman and the police association in regards to the incident.

--Associated Press contributed to this story

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