On March 5, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler called for an investigation into the leak of an incident report that incorrectly implicated Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty in a hit-and-run fender bender.
Why stop at one investigation? The city now has four.
On March 19, the mayor's office announced the hiring of an outside firm to review how Hardesty's name moved from an incident report into right-wing media.
There's plenty to investigate. On March 3, a Portland woman called 911 and claimed Hardesty had rear-ended her car on East Burnside and fled the scene. The next morning, a right-wing political action committee, the Coalition to Save Portland, published details from the report, and The Oregonian picked up the story. Police later learned by reviewing TriMet security footage that the suspect was in fact a Vancouver woman, whom the 911 caller apparently mistook for Hardesty. By then, attention had shifted to who leaked the false claim against Hardesty, a longtime police critic and the first Black woman on the Portland City Council.
A surprise announcement added another wrinkle: On March 16, the Portland Police Association announced the abrupt resignation of president Brian Hunzeker for a "serious, isolated mistake related to the Police Bureau's investigation into the alleged hit-and-run by Commissioner Hardesty." What exactly Hunzeker did remains unclear. A Police Bureau spokesman says Hunzeker has been reassigned to the patrol unit in the North Precinct.
Here is an overview of the investigations:
1. Portland Police Bureau, Internal Affairs: On March 5, Deputy Chief Chris Davis initiated an internal affairs investigation into the leak. The bureau declined to comment on the status of the investigation.
2. Bureau of Emergency Communications: BOEC, which fields 911 calls, initiated an investigation shortly after it learned of the incident, said spokesman Dan Douthit. He declined to share the date that the investigation began or provide any additional details. "It is ongoing," Douthit said. "As soon as there is something to share, we want to make sure to get it out there."
3. Outside Review of the Leak: On March 17, the city inked a $50,000 contract with California-based OIR Group to investigate the "unauthorized and inappropriate release of information." In other words, OIR will scrutinize the leak itself. The firm has previously investigated officer-involved shootings in Portland.
4. Broader Cultural Review: On March 11, Hardesty called for an investigation into "the role of white supremacy and connections to far-right media and organizations within the Portland Police Bureau." She and Wheeler are still ironing out details of this investigation. Their offices said in a joint statement March 19 that the scope of the investigation would include political and racial bias and "resistance to change" within the Police Bureau.
The mayor's office says the first three investigations are seeking accountability for the leak itself. The fourth, broader investigation has loftier goals.
"We want to get to the bottom of the incident involving the leak of information that falsely implicated Commissioner Hardesty. You can't really move forward on trust until you've accomplished that," says Jim Middaugh, a spokesman for the mayor. "The broader review is the one that presents the least certainty right now, but the most promise in terms of meaningful change. We want to have the best police department in the nation and that's ultimately the goal."
Update: The headline has been altered slightly from the print version to clarify that the leaked information falsely implicated Commissioner Hardesty.