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COURTESY OHSU - OSHU police officers are trained and certified by the state. They have full arrest powers and carry guns.Police departments are typically formed to keep the peace. At Oregon Health & Science University, it hasn’t worked out that way.


Instead, the combination hospital, medical school and clinic operator in Southwest Portland is locked in strife with its newest employee union, which represents OHSU police officers. Union leaders say the administration is engaging in illegal whistleblower retaliation as well as union-busting.

In late April, the OHSU Police Association inked its first contract, nearly a year after being recognized as the officers’ union at OHSU. Since then, its leaders have filed complaints with the state Employment Relations Board as well as the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, saying they are being punished for union activity and for blowing the whistle.

According to the complaints, contract negotiations were “particularly acrimonious,” and since then one union officer has been terminated for alleged untruthfulness, while another has been disciplined for reporting a colleague for failing to follow basic law enforcement protocol. Union leaders, in those complaints, call the administration’s actions unjust.

The union and its leaders declined comment, citing a pending unfair labor practice complaint filed with the state. However, in filings, officials say the administration seeks to “dominate and interfere with” the union and to discourage people from becoming members, according to the May 11 unfair labor complaint filed with the Employment Relations Board.

OHSU spokeswoman Tamara Hargens-Bradley says the university can’t comment on specifics, but “OHSU adheres to all state and federal labor laws ... OHSU does not tolerate retaliation against anyone who reports an alleged violation of state or federal law, or OHSU’s Code of Conduct, policies and procedures.”

The massive OHSU Portland campus, known as “Pill Hill,” was primarily patrolled by the Portland Police Bureau.

But OHSU wanted its own force and persuaded lawmakers to OK the idea twice, once in 2009 and again in 2011.

OHSU exercised its new police authority to form a department in 2012, with officers going through the state’s police training and certification process. In late 2014, OHSU armed its officers with guns.

In addition to 20 police officers, OHSU employs three community service officers, four sergeants, two lieutenants and one director of public safety — a position held by former Portland Police Bureau Sgt. Heath Kula. The university also employs 10 people to take calls and dispatch officers.

Soon after being armed, the officers sought to break away from the main OHSU employees’ union, Local 328 of the American Federation of County, State and Municipal Employees.

The new union also chose not to accept OHSU’s contract offer, instead seeking mediation through its lawyer, Darryl Garretson.

That’s when the administration began denying the union’s requests, such as the president’s bid to combine breaks in order to conduct a union meeting.

On the afternoon of Jan. 18, OHSU and the Portland Police Bureau were notified of a carjacking at the Shell station at the corner of Sam Jackson Highway and Southwest Terwilliger Boulevard, according to a Portland police report and other documents. The union’s secretary, Officer Brian Tolman, drove to the scene with a trainee.

Meanwhile, gas station employees had subdued a 20-year-old OHSU patient, and the Portland police turned him over to their OHSU counterparts.

OHSU then opened an investigation of Tolman, eventually firing him on allegations of untruthfulness and insubordination. Details of the accusations are unclear.

The union’s complaint challenges the investigation and asks the state Employment Relations Board to restore his job.

The allegation of untruthfulness could result in Tolman being stripped of his law enforcement certification.

Two of his former coworkers questioned the claim. “I worked with Brian for nine years and he has unquestionable integrity,” says Chris Barnett, who has left the department for another police agency.

Scott Fray, a former Douglas County sheriff's sergeant who served as Tolman’s supervisor for four years, says Tolman is a smart, honest cop. Asked for his take on the incident, he says he suspects the administration has “it out for Brian. When they have it out for someone, that’s what they do.”

Meanwhile, the union’s president, Jeff Haagenson, has asked state labor investigators to review his own whistleblower retaliation claim. In a May 23 complaint to the Bureau of Labor and Industries, he contends the university has passed him over for promotion and issued him a “coaching and counseling” reprimand, in part for his complaint about a dispatcher who failed to run a background check of a suspect. The union president was “not being a good team member,” according to the complaint.

Haagenson contends he is being retaliated against, in part for his union activities. “I believe this is (OHSU’s) attempt to dissuade me from presenting future complaints,” he wrote.

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