Brandy Justice barely noticed the media frenzy over recent accusations of sexual impropriety against Police Chief Derrick Foxworth.
With a full-time job and mom duty, she says, there hasn't been much time to follow the local soap opera these past two weeks, even when X-rated emails penned by the chief suggest he did more than nod good morning to desk clerk Angela Oswalt.
Then one night last week, when Justice flipped on the TV, she saw a familiar face above the name of the chief's accuser. Oswalt, whose threatened lawsuit against the city accuses Foxworth of harassment and abuse, was the same drunk driver who rammed into Justice's car on a November night in 1999.
"I remember it clearly. She was too drunk to see there was a light there, so she decided to use me for a brake," Justice said last week at her home in Northeast Portland.
The 9 pm collision, at Northeast Grand Avenue and Weidler Street, left Justice with a ruined rear bumper, a concussion and whiplash.
"She was just completely wasted," Justice says. "She kept telling me not to call 911 because she worked for the Police Bureau."
Someone did call the police. They questioned Oswalt, who failed several sobriety tests, refused to submit to a Breathalyzer and repeated that she worked for the bureau. Oswalt's passenger, another Police Bureau desk clerk named Brooke Brown, was passed out in the front seat of the car.
Oswalt lost her license for a year after pleading guilty to drunken and reckless driving.
When Oswalt's accusations against Foxworth became public earlier this month, media accounts used a booking photo to put a face to the name.
Oswalt's past does not undercut the seriousness of her accusations. But it does begin to paint a more complete picture of the woman who detonated the recent implosion of Foxworth's career in a controversy that, until now, has included only the chief's steamy emails to Oswalt and none she may have sent him in return.
Mayor Tom Potter put Foxworth on paid leave last week, making way for an investigation that will inevitably take a hard look at Oswalt and what made her come forward when she did.
Theories so far suggest Oswalt may be settling a score for her union—which has complained about the risk of losing desk jobs to sworn officers brought back from disability—or that it simply took time for her to process what had happened to her and gather the courage to step forward.
Regardless of Oswalt's motivations, it's clear she has raised important questions about the sexual politics of the Police Bureau.
Portland's Independent Police Review Board has logged 37 allegations of inappropriate sex conduct by police since 2002, when the board started collecting data.
None of the complaints has been upheld, according to board director Leslie Stevens, who notes that one involved a man who accused an officer of "breathing his gay breath on me."
And last week, AFSCME Local 189, which represents about 280 non-sworn members of the bureau, said it's investigating more complaints about sexual misconduct by police brass.