Hardesty clarifies remarks on fired police sergeant
Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty issued a statement Thursday evening clarifying statements she made when the City Council considered settling with a Portland police sergeant fired for making racial comments earlier in the day.
The council did not approve the settlement with former Sgt. Gregg Lewis because of Hardesty's objections. But in her statement, Hardesty admitted the comments she attributed to Lewis were different than those in the official record.
"I was briefed by City Attorneys on the statements made by Sergeant Lewis during roll call. While the paraphrased remarks I recollected today at City Council differ from the quotes used in the official report, the gist is the same: this person sworn to protect us made clear that he views certain types of people expendable in our society. I thank his fellow officers for reporting this heinous comment and elevating it as a punishable offense," said in the statement.
According to Oregon Public Broadcasting, during the hearing, Hardesty said, "If you run into a drunk on the street who's white, in a suit, let him go, because he'll probably sue you. If he's a Latino, call CHIERS (the acronym for a sobering station in downtown Portland). "'If he's black, shoot him.'
"That's what the officer said. That's why other officers turned him in. I'm happy that those officers turned him in," Hardesty said during the hearing.
The official record is different, however. It includes an account by one of the sergeants who reported Lewis' conduct to the police chief, as follows:
"Sergeant Gregg Lewis #22515 gave roll call. During roll call we had a conversation about whether or not police could legally detox subjects from parking structures. Sergeant Lewis told officers to "be smart" about who they detoxed from inside the parking structures. Sergeant Lewis stated, "If you come across a guy in a suit and tie that came downtown and had a little too much to drink… he's probably not the guy you want to detox straight out of the garage. He will most likely sue you. If it's a homeless guy, you will probably be safe. I doubt he's going to sue you."
"At this time an Officer mentioned he had read an Oregonian article about the Andrew Hearst shooting. The Officer stated he had read the comments section of the article and was dismayed because a citizen had written, "PPB kills black people, but only injures white people." Officers began talking amongst themselves about this statement and then I heard Sergeant Lewis state, "well, let's just go out and kill all the black people".
"I looked around the room to gauge the affect this statement had on the officers. The officers appeared shocked and astonished. There was some uncomfortable laughter throughout the room, but most officers were quiet. This brought roll call to an end."
Lewis' firing was challenged by the Portland Police Association. The union and the City Attorney's Office urged the council to settle or risk losing the case in arbitration. According to OPB, Wheeler, who serves as police commissioner, argued that the settlement was the surest way to ensure that Lewis is taken off the police force for good.
in her statement, Hardesty said, "These two options show that we are working within a broken system. We sit on the cusp of Black History Month, a time meant to celebrate our diverse community, and yet we are buying off individuals who believe that there is a separate justice system for people who look like them and everyone else."
Lewis was fired on Feb. 2, 2018. The city has agreed to rescind Lewis's termination and impose a 15-day suspension without pay instead. Under the deal, Lewis' retirement will be effective as of Dec. 3, 2018, and he will not eligible to work for the city or the Police Bureau in the future.
Bureau leaders also agreed to pay him $100,020.53 — essentially his gross back pay from the day he was fired through the date of his effective retirement — minus what he would have earned during a three-week unpaid suspension.
Oregon Public Broadcasting is a new partner of the Portland Tribune and contributed to his story. You can read their full story here.
You can read a previous story on the case here.
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