Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Portland Police Bureau leadership - unprofessional

Nobody is going to come off well in the leadership debacle in the Portland Police Bureau.  The mayor, who at the moment is the bureau head, says that the chief has his full confidence. That is rubbish. Past police chiefs have lost their post for far less reasons. And it should not go without notice that this is the leadership ranks - not rank and file - that is under scrutiny.

The recent texting scandal has opened a window on the dysfunction in the command ranks. Lack of discipline, absence of respect, and boot camp mentality is just the start of the list of what is wrong in the command structure.

In this recent case we seem to have a discontented female police lieutenant, Galvan, that has failed to gain the respect of others in the command ranks.  Assuming her original complaints about Capt. Kruger were valid, there appears to be no internal structure for resolving those complaints. And, yet to be possibly disclosed, it may be that her complaints had been determined to be unfounded.

But one has to wonder why she was assigned to work under the supervision of Capt. Kruger when she had played a role in an internal investigation that lead to Capt. Kruger's discipline. What kind of management decision places these two obvious adversaries in that relationship. It would not have been any better if it had been she supervising Capt. Kruger. It is a personnel decision highly suspect.

The hiring of Kuykendall was suspect from the gitgo - nepotism. The police chief restructure the position of Director of Services such that it became a civilian position apparently so that he could hire his close friend Kuykendall.  Other than his close friendship with the police chief - Kuykendall appears well qualified for the job that appears to be pure administrative. But that action of nepotism by the chief undermined his authority and standing among his peers and police personnel down through the rank and file.

But one cannot discount that relationship between the chief and Kuykendall in the lieutenant's decision to voice her complaints to Kuykendall.  It is not unreasonable to suspect that she expected her discontent might be passed onto the chief by his close friend Kuykendall. And the characterized close relationship relationship between Kuykendall and Galvan is suspect, although the media seems loath to follow that line of inquiry.

Kuykendall demonstrated a lack of professionalism by inserting himself into bureau personnel problems. It appears that he was no where in any chain of command that might have otherwise caused him to be involved.  He continued to show that lack of professionalism by discussing with and offering support for Galvan's personnel problem that might become subject to an internal affairs investigation over which he has oversight responsibility.

Kuykendall, as a seasoned attorney, ought to have known better than to defame the character of Capt. Kruger. It is seen from the disclosed messages between Kuykendall and Galvan that he felt not only free to do so, but also that he somehow thought it was humorous.

It is unprofessional too, if true, that Galvan's supervisor, after a transfer from Capt. Kruger, foreclosed any opportunity for objective view of her performance or redress of her criticisms. And the apparent harassment,  although maybe not substantial, may have created a hostile work environment.

However, a "hostile work environment" must be evaluated in context. A police department is not anything like a typical civilian workplace. The police provide a para military service to the community ensuring public safety. Their is a military like command discipline that doesn't exists or is needed in a civilian environment. E.g., orders are expected be carried out without discussion irrespective of one's personal or professional concerns. It is too a culture demanding a certain comradery that isn't found in the civilian workplace.

With that in mind, this police chief has not reaped any accolades for his performance in office. Arguably he became Mayor Adams' poodle permitting the mayor to redefine the role of the police department resulting in a passive police force. Mayor Adams politicized the police force bowing to the demands of community malcontents.

While the police force must have civilian oversight, that oversight must not interfere with the structure and operation of a professional police force. Mayor Hales is fortunate that this early in his term as mayor to have  the opportunity to seek and hire a professional from the outside to be the police chief.  This he must do.