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September 3rd, 2003 The Nose | The Nose
 

Kroeker's misfires

     
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Mark Kroeker
IMAGE: Chris Ho
Politics has never been Mark Kroeker's strong suit. Sure, the Ichabod Crane lookalike is a decent guy who speaks well and has good manners, but when it comes to political adeptness, Portland's top cop has less range than a Daisy Winchester air rifle.

That's no reason to hate the guy, but it helps explain why it took him until the last week of August to realize what everyone else who paid attention long knew: Vera wanted him outta there.

Oh, a number of people expressed surprise, but that's only because, the way these things are typically done, word is spread the day before the actual event. Allows people to get prepared, you know.

It's amazing Kroeker lasted as long as he did. Start with the boners (telling Portland to "get accustomed" to it after the May 1, 2000, thumping of a peaceful crowd, and awarding medals to the cops who killed Jose Mejia Poot). Add the dumb flubs (ordering LAPD-style buzzcuts for Portland's holdout hippie cops). Toss in the small indelicacies (demanding money from the City Council if it wants bureau reform). Throw in a dash of bad luck (an officer's shooting of Kendra James at a traffic stop). You end up with a bouillabaisse of bad policing that makes Mayberry RFD look like a SWAT team.

Kroeker's capper began last week when the chief met with Mike Lindberg, a former city commissioner who had become an informal advisor to the chief.

The Nose has it on good authority that Lindberg thought it was time to push Kroeker toward some newer, if not necessarily greener, pasture. He'd checked with Katz, who agreed.

Hell, she couldn't believe that Kroeker hadn't figured this out on his own. Police-related complaints are up, not just from cop-haters but from mainstream Portlanders. The chief's bond with his officers make the Shiite-Sunni relationship seem downright cozy. And didn't Kroeker read something into the fact that he can barely go to the boys' room without checking with Her Honor?

On Wednesday afternoon, Lindberg met Kroeker at a Starbucks a block from Central Precinct to deliver the news. Not that Kroeker had to go tomorrow or next week., but he should prepare to leave--and not wait 'til the L.A. chief's job opened up again.

Rather than quietly plan a face-saving exit strategy, Kroeker returned to the bureau, took the elevator to the 15th floor and informed his command staff--a structure that leaks worse than the pond in the Classical Chinese Garden.

On Thursday, Katz found herself discounting widespread rumors that Kroeker's job was in jeopardy, and her patience evaporated. Elise Marshall, Katz's longtime police liaison, delivered Kroeker an ultimatum: Tender his resignation, or the mayor would ask for it on Tuesday.

On Friday, Kroeker called his press conference and surprised the city with the least surprising news of the summer.

Katz now wants to replace Kroeker with Derrick Foxworth, who is everything Kroeker is not: Kroeker came from outside the bureau; Foxworth is a lifer. Kroeker is as stiff as a Nancy Reagan public-service announcement; Foxworth is as smooth as a Norah Jones song. Kroeker is white, and--well, somebody's got to point it out--Foxworth is not.

All those facts should work in Foxworth's favor, but the Nose figures he's still a bit nervous. Police chiefs in major American cities typically last as long as a boy band. As Kroeker proved, being a decent guy isn't nearly as important as being a political sharpshooter.

 
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