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City pays $250K to settle suit by ex-Portland police worker

June 24, 2021 GMT

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The city of Portland will pay $250,000 to a former Portland police background investigator who alleged that an ex-officer sexually harassed and stalked her for three years.

Robert K. Bruders had resigned as an officer from the Police Bureau in 2016, two years after a jury awarded over $500,000 to a man who Bruders repeatedly punched in the face in an unrelated case, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported. But Bruders was rehired to do background checks on new police recruits.

The former background investigator sued the city of Portland last year, alleging it was negligent in failing to properly supervise or hold Bruders accountable for his behavior.

The woman identified in court papers by the initials “P. L.,” reported Bruders “staring and stalking” her and cornering her in a kitchen area and photocopy room of the Police Bureau’s personnel division, where she worked as a civilian background investigator.

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“The investigation indicates there is risk the City may be found liable,” wrote Rosalia Radich, a city senior claims analyst, to the City Council. The council approved the settlement Wednesday.

The former background investigator 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 looked P.L. up and down and told her, “You just say the word and it’s on,” according to her lawyers. P.L. filed a formal complaint against Bruders with her sergeant on Jan. 2, 2018.

Bruders’ boss 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 near the woman, according to bureau records.

The Police Bureau took steps to “reduce interactions between” Bruders and the woman, then- Lt. Tina Jones, bureau spokeswoman, previously told the newspaper.

The woman requested that Bruders be transferred, 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. came into work after hours and on weekends, entered the building through a different door and ate lunch in a different part of the building, according to her suit.

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P.L. was laid off Aug. 5, 2020, because of budget cuts. Bruders also was laid off then. Her suit alleged her lay off was a form of retaliation, noting that two other investigators with less seniority and experience were retained.

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.