In 1999, Police Chief Mark Kroeker came to PDX to do battle with the forces of chaos, anarchy and sloth. It proved valuable experience for his current gig in Liberia.In the Bible, the Book of Job teaches that suffering is not reserved for the wicked: It befalls the righteous as well.
The parable was undoubtedly an inspiration for Mark Kroeker, a devout born-again Christian who in 1999 was named police chief of this heathen-filled city.
The 32-year Los Angeles Police Department veteran, well-regarded by progressives and the media in his hometown, spent four years in Portland as a punching bag for reporters and lefties--mostly thanks to three early missteps.
First was his imposition of a military-style grooming policy of trim haircuts. Second was the May Day 2000 protest, in which cops in black Vaderesque riot-control helmets went ballistic on a largely peaceful crowd. Third was the surfacing of decade-old tapes in which Kroeker, addressing fellow conservative Christians, described homosexuality as a "perversion."
Despite his rocky start, Kroeker was a good soldier, enduring years of criticism with a smile on his face--until Aug. 29, 2003, when Mayor Vera Katz gave him the boot without letting him know in advance.
Today, Kroeker is the Civilian Police Commissioner for the United Nations' peacekeeping mission in Liberia--a country that makes Portland look like Disneyland.
Since the overthrow of dictator Charles Taylor in 2003, Liberia has been wracked by civil war, mob violence and gunfights. Several UN personnel have been murdered.
Kroeker's job is to keep the peace with 1,100 UN officers while building a new Liberian police force free of the corruption that tainted the old one.
It is, for him, a mission from God--a crucial step to create a functioning democracy at a time when the nation stands on the brink of disaster.
Still smarting from his Portland send-off, Kroeker did not respond to WW's emails. But his sister, Joanne, was able to give us the scoop.
"He is happy," she says. "It's tough, but he is one that sticks it out. He's not a quitter."
The adjustment to the heat and the poverty of Africa has apparently been easier for Mark Kroeker than for his wife, Diane, who is volunteering with relief agencies there.
"He was raised in Africa, the same as me," Joanne says, referring to their youth as the children of Mennonite missionaries there. "Our childhood was in a mud hut with a grass roof and a dirt floor."
"He does love Africans," she adds, saying that despite their parents' warnings about lice, "He always had his arms around [his friends there]. He's very much a people person."
Kroeker has traded emails with Barbara Agnew of Northwest Medical Teams, a nonprofit volunteer group that has a nurse in Liberia.
The mission "got off to a rocky start," says Agnew. "But I think there have been strides made."
She says Kroeker seems happier ducking bullets in Monrovia than he was getting sniped at in Portland.
"I think that's a relief," she says, of Liberia's political climate. "I think the change has been good."
Intro | Tonya's Mob: Tonya Harding, Jeff Gillooly & Shawn Eckardt | The Crusader: Gordon Shadburne | The Meteor: Billy Ray Bates | Satan's Pilgrim: Rex Diabolos Church | The Firebrand: Ron Herndon | The Bad Boy: Frank Peters | The Broken Halo: Michael Stoops | The Crack Mother: Anita Nichols | The Veejay: Kennedy | The Girl from Electra: Treva Throneberry | The Perfect Victim: Azalea Cooley | The Grappler: Dutch Savage | Wonder Boy: Pat Gillis | The Ex-Files: Marcia & Steve Moskowitz | The Witness: Dave Mazzella | The Prankster: Igor Vamos | The Intern: Monica Lewinsky | The Runaways: Diane Walden & Peter | Top Cop: Mark Kroeker | Sprawl Kitten: Kate Schiele | Authority Figure: Rocky Balada | The Hulk: Dry Dock 4 | The Candidate: Gail Shibley | The Super: Ben Canada | The Organ Grinder: Dr. William J. Brady | Pillars of the Community: The Lovejoy Columns | The Survivor: Giles Thompson | The Contender: Andy Minsker | Space Invader: The Phantom Dialer | The Red Menace: Ma Anand Sheela