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Former Portland police officer, on desk duty after record brutality verdict, now accused of sexually harassing co-worker

A former Portland police officer whose beating of a man led to the city’s largest police brutality jury verdict now faces a sexual harassment lawsuit from a colleague at the bureau where he continued to work as a civilian investigator.
Robert Bruders had resigned from the Police Bureau in 2016, two years after a jury awarded more than $500,000 to a man who Bruders repeatedly punched in the face. But he was rehired immediately as a non-sworn employee to do background checks on new police recruits.
A co-worker in the bureau’s Personnel Division on Tuesday sued the city, claiming Bruders stalked her in the office and outside of work for three years.
Bruders also repeatedly offered to show her and others in the personnel office a video of him punching the man who took him to court, the suit says. Bruders further vowed that he’d be back on the street in uniform as soon as he could pass the bureau’s psychological exam, according to the suit.
The colleague, identified by her initials “P.L.,” alleges the Police Bureau was negligent in failing to properly supervise or hold Bruders accountable for his behavior.
She is seeking $500,000 in damages.
“It’s a story of how you can’t get rid of a bad officer,‘' said attorney Greg Kafoury, who filed the suit in Multnomah County Circuit Court with his son Jason Kafoury. “It shows the macho culture of the police department, low levels of concern for women and veneration of the tough guys and how they could do no wrong.”
Bruders declined comment on the allegations.
The woman who filed the suit reported Bruders “staring and stalking” her and cornering her alone in a kitchen area and photocopy room. She said Bruders created a hostile and intimidating work environment that forced her to change her work habits at police headquarters in downtown Portland.
In one instance, Bruders leaned back in his chair, looked P.L. up and down and told her, “You just say the word and it’s on,” according to her lawyers.
After telling her supervisors about the unwanted contact, P.L. filed a formal complaint against Bruders with her sergeant on Jan. 2, 2018.
By mid-August 2018, Bruders’ boss, then a lieutenant in the Police Bureau’s Personnel Division, upheld one of five allegations against Bruders, finding he made inappropriate and unprofessional remarks about his co-worker’s appearance and his presence disrupted the workplace.
The lieutenant suggested a “debriefing” with Bruders before returning him to work in the same office near the woman, according to bureau records.
The Police Bureau found “no basis to move him out of the Personnel Division based on these complaints,” but took steps to “reduce interactions between” Bruders and the woman, according to Lt. Tina Jones, bureau spokeswoman. Jones declined to identify what the steps were.
The woman requested that Bruders be transferred out of the division, but instead a human resources representative suggested P.L. develop a “safety plan,” telling her the city had nowhere else to move Bruders, the suit says.
That same human resources official, Rebecca McKechnie, advised P.L. that Bruders “makes me uncomfortable too,” according to the suit.
To avoid contact with Bruders, P.L. would come into work after hours and on weekends, enter the building through a different door and eat lunch in a different part of the building, according to her suit.
“The supervising and management employees of PPB were aware that Bruders was creating and subjecting plaintiff to a severe and pervasive sexually hostile work environment, yet PPB did nothing to prevent this,” Jason Kafoury wrote in the suit.
In late 2019, the bureau investigated P.L. based on a complaint arising from Bruders’ friend and co-worker, another man in the office.
P.L. admitted she had made inappropriate comments to the friend and apologized. Earlier this year, allegations that she had made “isolated references to men not assisting with heavy lifting” in setting up a police testing room and references to the year another man may have been born, were upheld. She received command counseling, the lowest form of discipline, after a separate internal affairs inquiry.
Last month, P.L. got word she would be one of the background investigators to be laid off on Aug. 5 due to budget cuts, though she may be able to return on a temporary basis. She contends retaliation in the suit, noting that two other investigators with less seniority and experience were retained.
Bruders also is set to be laid off Aug. 5 due to budget cuts, the bureau said. He’s currently assigned to the Emergency Coordination Center run by the city’s Bureau of Emergency Management.
In 2014, a Multnomah County jury awarded $562,000 to Jason Cox after Portland police knocked him face-down to the ground and repeatedly pummeled and zapped him with a Taser on June 28, 2011. Bruders struck Cox in the face multiple times with a closed fist once Cox was already down, a surveillance video showed.
Cox, who was 37 at the time, testified that he thought he was going to be beaten to death when police took him into custody in a Southeast Portland parking lot on suspicion of drunken driving.
A Portland Fire & Rescue paramedic at the scene noted that officers were strangely tight-lipped around him and wrote in a report that they were “very reluctant to give any info how (patient) was injured.”
Before the case went to trial, Cox had filed a complaint against the officers with the Independent Police Review, the city intake office for complaints against Portland police. The matter was referred to the bureau’s Internal Affairs Division, which did a preliminary inquiry, reviewed the video and determined that Bruders’ punches were within policy and the law.
Jason Cox
In 2014, a Multnomah County jury awarded $562,000 to Jason Cox after Portland police knocked him face-down to the ground and repeatedly pummeled and zapped him with a Taser on June 28, 2011. Bruders struck Cox in the face multiple times with a closed fist once Cox was already down, a surveillance video showed.
Chris Davis, internal affairs lieutenant at the time and now the bureau’s deputy chief, wrote that Bruders and other officers present noted that Cox looked as if he was going to resist arrest by “furrowing his brow " and “assuming a fighting stance.‘' Officers didn’t know if he had a weapon once he was taken to the ground because his right hand was under his body and they hadn’t searched him, Davis wrote.
Bruders explained that a fellow officer’s Taser didn’t succeed in getting Cox to comply and using pepper spray would impact the other officers present so he found that striking Cox in the face with a closed fist was the “most appropriate” alternative. Davis found Bruder’s decision “reasonable,‘' considering all the circumstances and declined to call for a more in-depth inquiry, Davis wrote in a memo to the district attorney in October 2011. Independent Police Review closed the case.
At first, Jones said the Police Bureau never did a follow-up internal investigation into Bruders’ assault of Cox after the trial verdict. According to Jones, the bureau spokeswoman, Bruder couldn’t be re-investigated because it would have constituted “double jeopardy’' -- examining his conduct again absent new information.
Jason Kafoury called the bureau’s reasoning “ridiculous.” ‘It’s not a criminal case,” he said. “This would be an administrative review.”
But later, Jones said she had inaccurate information and said that the Bureau had indeed done a follow-up internal inquiry but didn’t share the outcome.
“If our justice system worked as intended, Bruders would never have returned to duty after the video of him and his coworkers assaulting Mr. Cox came to light,” Kafoury said.
“The PPB’s internal investigation and the Independent Police Review’s decision show at best a profound disconnect from reality and at worst an outright coverup of police brutality,” he said. “They allowed Bruders to continue working for the PPB and enabled him in his harassment of P.L.”

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