When Portland police officers took a knee alongside protestors this week, it became part of a national narrative — a storyline about how most cops are good people who condemn violence and want to reform their departments and the system as a whole.
But before we turn those officers into heroes for taking a knee, we need to talk about why they never took a stand against one of their own: Mark Kruger.
Kruger is a recently retired police captain who has built public shrines to Nazi soldiers, dressed up in Nazi uniforms, and allegedly bragged about roughing up female protesters.
The police department learned about this behavior a decade ago, but Kruger was never fired.
Instead, city officials did the bare minimum, suspending Kruger without pay for two weeks and citing him for bringing “discredit and disgrace upon the Bureau.” And when Kruger filed a lawsuit, they folded without a fight and paid him a $5,000 settlement.
So what did those kneeling police officers do then? Did they publicly condemn their colleague? Demand that he be fired? Resign in protest?
Nope, they circled the wagons and kept quiet, even as the department awarded Kruger an “Achievement Medal” for his service and continued to let him serve as a captain.
So yeah, let’s not get swept up in the “feel-good” stories about cops kneeling with protestors. And let’s focus instead on the real reforms that need to happen to get cops like Kruger off the force.
Because Portland has a real opportunity right now.
City officials are in the middle of contract negotiations with the police union, and thanks to the growing protest movement, they’ve got all the leverage they need to claw back power and make it easier to discipline and fire cops.
But local leaders need to feel the pressure to use that leverage, and to use it now, instead of pushing contract negotiations back to next year because of the coronavirus.
Want to help the cause? You can start by emailing Mayor Wheeler (who oversees the Police Bureau and also happens to be running for reelection this year) and letting him know you’re watching these union negotiations — and that business-as-usual just won’t cut it.