New Chief Foxworth Pledges
Commitment to Community

Chief Mark Kroeker called an impromptu news conference on the Friday before Labor Day weekend to announce his resignation. The announcement was a surprise--earlier that week, after the release of a report on police shootings (see article), Mayor Katz told the Portland Tribune she was not interested in asking Kroeker to resign, and he said he would not quit (the Tribune article appeared the morning of Kroeker's resignation, August 29).

The exact reasons for his resignation remain unclear. Kroeker claims Katz came to him through "intermediaries" (former City Commissioner Mike Lindberg) to suggest that if he did not resign he would be fired (Willamette Week September 3 and 10).

Speculation on the "why" include: the report on police shootings released on August 26 and Kroeker's response to it at City Council, the May 5 shooting of Kendra James, Kroeker's subsequent handling of it at a July 1 community forum (see PPR #30), and Kroeker's decision to discipline the officer who shot James rather than fire him--or was it that the six-month suspension was too long? Was it because he applied to be Los Angeles' Police Chief after three years in Portland after promising to stay for five? Or did Katz want a clean slate after deciding not to run for a fourth Mayoral term? (More speculation from the police in Rapping Back).

Conservative Oregonian columnist David Reinhard lamented Kroeker's demise in a September 14 op-ed. He suggested that Kroeker decided to spare McCollister, going against Mayor Katz's desire to fire him, and traded his own badge for McCollister's in his attempt to please both the union and the Mayor. Kroeker told Reinhard, "It's more complicated than that."

That leads us to believe it was a combination of years of mis-steps (including attacks on protestors, homophobic comments in a ten-year-old recording, and the awarding of medals in November 2002 to the officers who shot and killed José Mejía Poot --PPRs #21-28) and Katz's need to find a fall guy for what happened to James. Katz probably realized that if McCollister were fired, the Portland Police Association (PPA) would fight to get him reinstated. (Officer Douglas Erickson was reinstated after being fired for shooting 23 times at a fleeing suspect in 1993 when the PPA spent over $100,000 on arbitration--PPR #6.) Rather than take the political heat herself, Katz may have allowed the McCollister discipline to play out so that the next police chief would not be blamed by either the community or the PPA. This is probably the case since the last step of that process, which includes "mitigation" hearings where McCollister met with Kroeker to try to change his mind, ended August 28, the day before Kroeker quit.

While Kroeker promised to stay on for a transition period until October 10, rumor has it that he never set foot in the Justice Center again until his official resignation took place that day.

About a month later, Kroeker announced that his next job would be as Commissioner of the International Police Force in Liberia, under a U.N. peacekeeping command. Kroeker, who previously served in Bosnia and Haiti on similar missions, said "I embrace this challenge with eagerness and a deep desire to serve the cause of peace" (Tribune, October 24). Given his history of crackdowns on first amendment protests in his own community (pepper spray, bean bags and batons used at May Day 2000 and an anti-George Bush protest in August 2002) we're worried about how he will treat people in a country he's not even from.

Kroeker, a born-again Christian, gave his formal going-away speech at the Downtown Bible Class on October 10, quoting a Wordsworth poem on "The Character of the Happy Warrior" and stating "I'm in the business of seeking heaven's applause, and this makes me a happy warrior" (Oregonian, October 11).

Contrary to Kroeker, Chief Foxworth rose through the ranks of the Portland Police Bureau, working as a gang-enforcement and drugs-and-vice officer and acting as public information officer for Chief Tom Potter. Foxworth was promoted to Commander of NE Precinct and eventually became Kroeker's Assistant Chief in May 2002. Foxworth was involved in the only two cases in which officers testified before Portland's police review board (the Citizen Review Committee, or CRC). The first involved a situation in which he directed officers to shoot lead pellet bag shotguns at unarmed protestors in 1998 (PPR #16). He testified on behalf of an officer accused of misconduct for telling a woman at the incident that she was "stupid" (PPR #26). The second was the case of Merrick Bonneau, in which Foxworth came before the CRC to defend his decision to exonerate officers who mistook the mixed-race, five-foot-ten-inch Bonneau for his larger, white brother (PPR #29). Bonneau remarked that as an African American man, Foxworth ought to have known the officers should not make that mistake.

Commenting on Katz's choice for a new chief, Pastor Roy Tate of the Albina Ministerial Alliance told the crowd at the AMA's September 6 forum on Kendra James: "You don't have to keep asking me about him being a black Chief. We can see that, we're not blind. We're not expecting a different relationship with him than any other chief. We're gonna hold everybody accountable."

To his credit, Foxworth ordered officers not to use deadly force when they came to a call in September, 2001 where Tyrone Waters, son of state Senator Avel Gordly, confronted police with a pellet gun (PPR #25). Although one officer did open fire, he missed Waters, and it's likely that Foxworth's involvement saved the young man's life.

In his new role, Foxworth has been repeating his commitment to Community Policing, promising to "strengthen the relationship with the community, improve administration and fiscal areas and to address recommendations in the [officer-involved shooting] report" (Portland Observer, September 3).

Foxworth has promised to meet with "stakeholders" in community policing to, in the words of Mayor Katz, "bring the community back together" after Kroeker's reign (El Hispanic News, September 3).


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