Oregon police officers threatened after accusing chief of racism

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 15, 2015 3:11 PM

By Shelby Sebens

PORTLAND, Ore. (Reuters) - Two Oregon police officers who accused their boss of making racist remarks, including comparing African-Americans to monkeys, have been threatened after filing their formal complaint, state troopers said on Tuesday.

The Oregon State Police is investigating a report that nails were placed in the driveways of the officers' homes last week, spokesman Lieutenant Bill Fugate said.

Neither officer responded to a request for comment, but one told a local newspaper last week he had received death threats in response to making the allegations against former Clatskanie Police Chief Marvin Hoover.

Hoover, who is white, retired last month after the complaint, which came after a black woman was arrested and threatened to sue his department for racism and discrimination, according to a complaint to the Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training.

In the complaint, Officers Alexander Stone and Zack Gibson said Hoover called the woman an animal, compared African-Americans to monkeys, performed monkey gestures, then sang "Dixie" while miming punching someone.

State officials have confirmed that an investigation of the former chief is under way, but declined to elaborate.

Stone told the Oregonian newspaper last week that his tire was punctured by nails on his driveway, that he was forced off the road while driving with his wife, and that he had received death threats by email.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon said it was in regular contact with Stone, and it urged city officials to commend and protect him and Gibson. 

"I am actually really concerned about it," the group's executive director, David Rogers, said of the threats.

City officials have not replied to requests for comment, but last week they released a statement saying the city "strongly condemns" Hoover's alleged conduct, and that city staff would undergo diversity training.

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They also urged the public to "respect the rights of the individuals who brought this matter forward."

Hoover, 56, was allowed to retire with extra pay and benefits. In a letter to a local newspaper this month, Clatskanie Mayor Diane Pohl thanked him for his 16 years of service and said she considered him "an honorable man and officer."

Rogers said the ACLU of Oregon is considering its next steps. "We need to make sure that when there's someone as visible as chief Hoover that he's held accountable and not rewarded." 

Hoover did not respond to a request for comment.

(Reporting by Shelby Sebens; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Mohammad Zargham)