In late November, the Portland Police Bureau bestowed its annual awards, including the "Police Medal" to two officers involved in the shooting death of José Santos Victor MejÍa Poot in April, 2001.
Members of the Latino community organized to force Kroeker to resign after they learned about the awards--not from Kroeker, but instead from Oregonian columnist Steve Duin's complaint about them in the November 21 newspaper.
The Latino Network, the Hispanic Police Advisory Council, County Commissioner Serena Cruz, and a representative of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce all spoke out at a November 26 rally at City Hall calling for Kroeker to pack his bags, although some gave the Chief an out if he were to withdraw the awards. As he has in the past, Kroeker apologized if he was misunderstood but defended his actions; Mayor Katz announced (in advance of actually meeting with the community to hear their concerns) that Kroeker would not be asked to resign.
While such awards have been given in the past--some officers involved in the death of Dickie Dow received commendation letters (1999-PPR #18), Officer Scott Westerman received an award after shooting a disturbed woman who'd fired a gun at a paramedic (1997-PPR #14), and more--the extent of community outcry after Mejía was shot should have made Kroeker think twice before giving out the medals. Even if it is routine to give these awards out to police who faced "a strong possibility of death or serious injury" in the line of duty (Directive #210.90-Awards), the huge marches, numerous community forums and negative press that the police got after Mejía was shot should have given Kroker a few hints that his decision would cause problems.
Members of the Latino community met with Mayor Katz on December 2, where she refused to fire Kroeker and suggested they meet with him in person. Since then, they have added pressure by pre- Christmas demonstrations at the Mayor's Office and the Chief's home. Meanwhile, mental health advocates, criminal justice groups and others have joined the call for Kroeker to resign.
For more information, contact the American Friends Service Committee at 503-230-9427.
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