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Demotion

You seldom see this sort of thing happening anymore: The top leader of an organization who runs into trouble is not either cleared or kicked out altogether, but rather demoted to a middle position in the organization.

Derrick Foxworth Probably you rarely see it because of the difficulties involved. Imagine being the CEO of a corporation one day and a department head within it the next, reporting to someone who reports to someone who used to report to . . . you. There’s some built-in discomfort involved.

Such will be life for Derrick Foxworth, the former Portland chief of police accused of sexual harassment and other improprieties, some of which he acknowledgement (including an affair with a female police employee who reported to him). The situation landed in the lap of Mayor Tom Potter, for whom it had to be excruciating, since Foxworth was a protege of Potter (himself a former police chief).

In wrapping up the investigation and releasing his conclusions and actions today, Potter did at least two things that must have been difficult for him.

Potter at the Foxworth news conferenceOne of them was letting loose the details of one of the most embarrassing incidents Portland city government has had in years.

Because of the serious nature of the allegations, and the fact they were made against the Chief of Police, I have decided to release the investigative report to the community. I do not do this lightly. When a City employee comes forward to report what they believe is discrimination or harassment in the workplace, they must be able to do so secure in the knowledge that the City will protect their privacy and their rights, and that others who may follow will be protected as well.

But in this case, I believe there is an overriding public interest in knowing how the public officials they have given a special trust are held accountable for their actions. I also believe that government works best when its actions are transparent to the people it serves. And rather than risk our community being divided by rumors, I want everyone to have the same information so they can see for themselves the allegations and facts of this case.

The report said that Foxworth wasn’t guilty of sexual harassment, and technically found legal fault just once, in a relatively technical violation. Potter said he’d issue a reprimand to cover that instance.

Given what the report says, Potter probably could have rationalized leaving the situation at that, and restoring Foxworth as chief. But he didn’t let anyone off that easy.

However, I believe there is a larger, more important issue before our community.

We make extraordinary demands of every man and woman who becomes a police officer. To make it possible to meet those demands, communities give police officers their trust.

We trust them with our safety, and the safety of our families. We trust them to make difficult decisions in often dangerous situations. We trust them because we believe in their judgment – and because we trust them, we ultimately hold them to a higher standard.

Without trust, no police officer – especially not the Chief of Police – can do all that we demand of him. And while this was a private, consensual relationship between two adults, it has now been made a part of the public’s consciousness. Men and women of the Portland Police Bureau and members of the public look to their Chief to set the tone for acceptable conduct. I do not believe Chief Foxworth’s example meets the standards that I, as the Police Commissioner, expect of the Chief of Police.

I have concluded Derrick Foxworth’s ability to lead the organization effectively as Chief has been damaged. Therefore, I am demoting Chief Foxworth to the rank of Captain, and reassigning him to duties within the Portland Police Bureau.

This conclusion won’t entirely satisfy; the Oregonian, for one, called for Foxworth’s resignation or firing weeks ago. But Potter took no easy outs in getting there.

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