PORTLAND, Ore. — Two other officers with the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) were disciplined for leaking information in March 2021 that falsely identified Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty as a hit-and-run suspect, according to documents released by the city of Portland.
Officer Kerri Ottoman was suspended for one day without pay and Officer Ken Le received a letter of reprimand for violating the bureau's directive on dissemination of information. Ottoman and Le are the second and third PPB officers to be disciplined for leaking information about the hit-and-run investigation.
The other was Officer Brian Hunzeker, who was fired Feb. 28 after an internal affairs investigation found that he shared confidential information with the media and that he did it in response to Hardesty's negative comments about PPB officers. Hunzeker was president of the Portland Police Association (PPA) at the time of the leak.
The same internal affairs investigation found that Ottoman and Le were responsible for leaking false information about Hardesty and the hit-and-run investigation.
According to a March 3, 2022 memo, Ottoman told a friend, Gabriel Johnson, about the hit-and-run call on March 4, 2021. She also took a picture of the Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) report and sent it to Johnson.
Johnson is affiliated with a conservative political action committee called Coalition to Save Portland. Later that morning, after his communication with Ottoman, Johnson shared the information about the hit-and-run investigation during a live stream on Facebook. Ottoman said she "was venting" to a friend and didn't know Johnson was going to share the information during a live stream.
"I was talking to Gabe as my friend and my confidant and somebody that I've talked to and trust," she said during an interview with an internal affairs investigator, according to the March 3 memo. She said she knew Johnson was connected to a conservative media group but that she didn't take that into consideration when she shared the information with him.
"That's completely separate from our relationship," she said. "I don't have anything to do with that. I know that's something he's part of."
She said she was upset and surprised when she found out he'd shared the information on a live stream.
Ottoman was suspended without pay for one day. In the March 3 memo, PPB Chief Charles Lovell said the one-day suspension was appropriate because he said Ottoman learned from her mistake, accepted responsibility and apologized for her actions. He wrote that Ottoman had no prior history of discipline in 27 years with PPB.
Le was one of the officers who investigated the hit-and-run accusation. According to a Jan. 27 memo, Le said he sent a message to a friend who works as a dispatcher at the city's Bureau of Emergency Communications (BOEC) with information about the hit-and-run accusation, including a screen shot of the CAD report. According to the memo, Le said he sent the picture of the CAD report "just for kind of laughs."
Le told investigators that he didn't know at the time that it was a violation of the bureau's dissemination of information directive to share the information with a BOEC employee.
Le received a letter of reprimand. In the Jan. 27 memo, Lovell said he determined that a letter of reprimand was appropriate, citing Le's "relative inexperience as an officer, and the fact that [Le] did not realize you could not share the information with" a BOEC employee.
On March 3, 2021, a victim told dispatch that she had been involved in a hit-and-run incident at Southeast 148th Avenue and East Burnside Street. The victim said she though the woman who hit her looked like Hardesty. That information was released to the media days after Hardesty was ruled out as a suspect.
"When you have taken on police accountability issues as long as I have, you come to expect these kinds of attacks," Hardesty said following the leak. "This is a normal tactic used to discredit people."
Hardesty added that her car did not leave the driveway on the day of the hit-and-run, which police later confirmed to be true.
Hardesty filed a lawsuit in December seeking a total of about $5 million in damages from the PPA, along with Hunzeker and Ottoman.