PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Acting Captain James Crooker accuses the Portland Police Bureau of retaliating against him, after he tried to block former Chief Jami Resch from promoting her fiancé to lieutenant.
In the lawsuit, Crooker also said he was discriminated in his own effort to be promoted, when the city did not follow state laws requiring preferential treatment be given to veterans. Crooker served in Iraq with the Marines before becoming a police officer.
This is not the first time Crooker has made headlines.
In 2010, he became the subject of national attention when the owner of a Portland coffee shop kicked him out after Crooker ordered a cup of coffee. At the time, the owner of the Black & Red Cafe told KOIN 6 News he and his customers did not feel safe with police around.
The lawsuit filed in federal court Wednesday also accuses the PPB, the Independent Police Review, Resch and two other officers of violating his free speech rights, retaliation, abuse of process, defamation, and race discrimination.
According to the lawsuit, Crooker is Hispanic.
The lawsuit says Crooker reported Resch to Human Resources and PPB for violating the nepotism administrative rule after she tried to help her fiancé move up. Crooker supervised Resch’s fiancé and recommended he not be promoted based on his work performance.
“Plaintiff reported it was not in the public interest to promote an unqualified person based on his romantic relationship with Resch,” the court document states.
Resch was promoted to chief December 30, 2019. She served in the role until June 2020, when she voluntarily stepped down during social unrest and turned the job over to Chuck Lovell.
Currently, Resch is the Assistant Chief of Investigations.
The lawsuit claims Crooker was told by command staff that he would suffer consequences from the Chief’s Office because he did not recommend the fiancé for promotion.
“Despite holding an acting captain position and despite the recommendation of Assistant Chief Ryan Lee to consider Plaintiff for the captain positions, and even though Plaintiff had been acting as a captain for approximately two-years; Deputy Chief Robert Day overrode Lee’s recommendation and denied Plaintiff the opportunity to test and interview for vacant captains positions within days of Plaintiff’s reporting Resch’s violation of Nepotism rules and Plaintiff’s request not to promote Resch’s boyfriend.”
According to the lawsuit the Bureau reduced Crooker’s pay.
The suit also accuses PPB of putting Crooker on administrative leave for using his official position to influence an investigation.
The accusation came after his wife and two other people were assaulted by a man who stabbed another man in the neck with the tip of an umbrella. Crooker said he complained that detectives took the suspect for mental health treatment instead of taking him to jail, where processes would be implemented for the victims to be notified whether the suspect was still in custody.
The lawsuit says Crooker was investigated after an anonymous complaint said he improperly wore his uniform to a hearing on his wife’s case. Crooker said he was given permission by his supervisor to wear the uniform.
The lawsuit seeks at least $1.95 million in punitive damages, plus back pay and lost wages and other damages.
In a statement to KOIN 6 News, PPB said it “generally refrains from making statements about ongoing litigation. I would refer you to the City Attorney’s office if you have questions on this topic.”
KOIN 6 News also asked Resch and the City Attorney for comment but has not yet heard back.