Today, the Portland City Council unanimously approved a $250,000 settlement for a former Portland Police Background Investigator after she was sexually harassed, discriminated, and retaliated against by former Portland Police Officer Robert Bruders.
In 2014, a Portland jury awarded the largest police excessive force verdict in Multnomah County history—$562,000—to Jason Cox after he was savagely beaten by three Portland Police Officers: Robert Bruders, Jeffery Elias, and Sarah Kerwin. While Officers Elias and Kerwin pinned Cox down, Bruders, 6’7” and 260 lbs, punched Cox seven times in the head. Before the historic jury verdict, a Portland Police Bureau Internal Affairs Investigator absolved the officers, writing “the use of force against [Mr. Cox] is within the boundaries placed on officers by policy and the law.”
After the jury verdict, Bruders was transferred to PPB’s Personnel Division. There, he sexually harassed a female investigator, P.L., for over three years. Bruders made sexually inappropriate comments about P.L.’s appearance. He stared at her and look down her blouse. He followed her into a photocopy room then lingered in a corner. Unprovoked, Officer Bruders texted P.L.’s personal cell phone while she was sick at home, asking if he could come over. Once, he made a lewd gesture, then said, “You just say the word, and it’s on.”
In the PPB Personnel Division office, Officer Bruders repeatedly offered to show his colleagues the video of Jason Cox being beaten. Bruders told staffers he would be back on the streets, out of desk duty, once he managed to pass his “psych exam.”
To avoid contact with Bruders, P.L. would come into work after hours and on weekends, would enter the building through a different door, and ate lunch in a different area of the office.
Four out of five of P.L.’s complaints about Bruders were dismissed by Human Resources. When P.L. brought the matter to H.R. Partner Rebecca McKechnie, McKechnie agreed with P.L., saying that when she, herself, worked with Bruders he also made her uncomfortable. Regardless, McKechnie failed to take any action, besides proposing that McKechnie could create a “safety plan” for P.L. to protect her from Bruders.
If our justice system in the City that Works worked as intended, Bruders would never have been rehired by the Portland Police after the video of him assaulting Mr. Cox came to light. The PPB’s internal investigation and the Independent Police Review’s decision show, at best, a profound disconnect from reality and, at worst, a coverup of police brutality. They allowed Bruders to continue working for the PPB, enabling him to harass P.L.
“After assaulting Mr. Cox, it’s unconscionable that Portland Police allowed Bruders to return to the Department and sexually harass a female co-worker. This case shows why the Portland Police Department needs serious reform,” said attorney Jason Kafoury.