A long legal battle in which a top male cop allegedly called a female detective "that fucking bitch" and said her "career is over" is about to hit the Portland Police Bureau—at precisely the wrong time for Chief Derrick Foxworth.
Next week, the federal trial begins in a lawsuit filed by Detective Ann Friday, a 13-year veteran, against Assistant Chief Stanley Grubbs.
The lawsuit filed in 2000, accuses Grubbs, then a precinct commander, of retaliating against Friday by denying her chances to advance after she filed a sexual-harassment complaint against her sergeant, Michael Barkley, in 1994.
That's significant because Grubbs is Foxworth's de facto No. 2, a longtime ally who oversees the day-to-day operations of the Police Bureau. And Grubbs and Foxworth both have been under fire lately thanks to media coverage faulting the bureau for allowing a black market in stolen goods to flourish around secondhand shops. The FBI also has opened a corruption probe.
Foxworth and Mayor Tom Potter, who oversees the Police Bureau, have already clashed repeatedly ("Collateral Damage," WW, Aug. 24, 2005) since Potter, an ex-police chief, became mayor this year.
And recent public comments by other city commissioners suggest the pressure on Foxworth is escalating. After Grubbs admitted to The Oregonian he'd known of the secondhand-shop problem for years, City Commissioner Randy Leonard called for heads to roll. Commissioner Erik Sten, meanwhile, urged support of Foxworth "for the time being"—a menacing caveat.
While police sources speculate that hassling of Foxworth is meant to make him resign, City Hall's animus may actually be directed at Grubbs.
The mayor is widely believed to disapprove of Grubbs' top-down management style. And the lawsuit's core allegation that Grubbs is a vindictive, sexist jerk assuredly comes as no surprise to Potter, whose daughter is a Portland cop.
When Grubbs was Southeast Precinct commander, he faced a slew of complaints from subordinates. In one of them, a male officer who'd been denied a transfer to another precinct claimed that Grubbs, in informing him, joked, "You're going to be my bitch."
Grubbs and Foxworth declined to comment for this story. Potter was out of town and unavailable for comment.
In court documents filed by Friday, one of her co-workers alleges that Grubbs said he did not want female supervisors in his precinct when he was precinct commander. Others said that after Friday's 1994 sexual- harassment complaint, Grubbs called her a "bitch" and told people her career was over. Friday, for her part, says she was labeled a troublemaker and denied transfers, training and promotions.
Grubbs has his defenders. They say his intense, detail-oriented style has been a boon to a bureau where lax management had long been a problem.
The Portland Police Association's Robert King says Grubbs' style has softened in the past year. "He's been communicative, he's been more inclusive,'' says the union head. "And a few other people have told me they've seen improvements in him as well."
The city's legal briefs claim Friday's problems were performance-related, not retaliation, and that Grubbs' alleged comments about women and Friday were irrelevant "stray" remarks.