Former Oregon police chief accused of racism admits behavior, sa - KPTV - FOX 12

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Former Oregon police chief accused of racism admits behavior, says it was a joke

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Former Clatskanie Police Chief Marvin Hoover, courtesy of  The Chief newspaper. Former Clatskanie Police Chief Marvin Hoover, courtesy of The Chief newspaper.
CLATSKANIE, OR (KPTV) -

Newly-released public records show that former Clatskanie Police Chief Marvin Hoover, who resigned last September after being accused of making racist remarks, admitted to some behavior in question but maintained it was a joke.

Nearly 400 pages of interviews, emails and exhibits were just released by the Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training – the agency that has been investigating the complaint surrounding Hoover since September 2015.

That’s when Hoover resigned from office, taking an early retirement package, amid the pending investigation.

A fellow police officer, Alex Stone, filed a complaint against Hoover with the DPSST, saying that Hoover compared African Americans to monkeys, acted like a monkey and sang the confederate song “Dixie Land” during a shift-change meeting in June 2015, after Stone recounted a call he’d had that night involving an African American woman who was arrested and threatened to sue.

The new records show that an investigator from the DPSST interviewed Marvin Hoover in November about the allegations, at which point Hoover recalled Stone’s story, saying:

“That’s what started the conversation about black people. And so just based on that incident and how police were being viewed in, you know, the public eye across the nation about killing blacks indiscriminately, blacks killing police officers indiscriminately, this whole race issue going on, I joked around and said some things, but it wasn’t directed at her, and it wasn’t directed at anyone personally. It was more of a frustration type joke type thing. I did say monkey and I did sing a song…”

Hoover described the whole thing as taking place in less than 30 seconds, saying at one point, “This wasn’t a concert. Okay? …This isn’t a long, prolonged concert by Marvin Hoover. All right?”

At one point, the exchange appears testy:

                Ms. Hibberds: “So if someone would have recorded you that day ---?”

                Mr. Hoover: “It would have been horrible. I’m sure anybody would have thought that. Anybody.”

                Ms. Hibberds: “Why?”

                Mr. Hoover: “Well, what do you mean, why? Don’t belittle me.”

                Ms. Hibberds: “I’m not belittling.”

                Mr. Hoover: “You’re belittling me.”

                Ms. Hibberds: “No, I’m not.”

                Mr. Hoover: “We’re talking about black people, and I say monkey and sing a song. Why? Because they would take it bad. Anybody would. I agree with you. You don’t have to do that. All right?”

Earlier in the interview, this exchange is transcribed in the report:

                Ms. Hibberds: “So looking back, would you agree that the joking around and the statements you made were inappropriate?”

                Mr. Hoover: “No.”          

                Ms. Hibberds: “No?”

                Mr. Hoover: “No. And again, this is locker room fun. This isn’t directed at anybody or any race. Okay? I think if you talk to anybody, you’ll never find anyone that will say I treated anybody bad because of the color of their skin, their sex or their religion or whatever. I’ve treated all people very fairly. Have I said things about certain people with people that I’ve trusted as jokes as joking around? Yes, I have. I always have. All right? But all of those people did, too. I’m not making excused, but I think that’s the way police officers vent.”

In a separate letter of mitigating circumstances Hoover wrote to the DPSST, he calls this practice of private joking “Blue humor,” and says all officers take part in them on some level to process the difficult parts of the job, writing: “…when these conversations occur it is of the belief we are not making fun of a specific individual or their situation, we are simply turning something horrible into something more digestible… something we can laugh about instead of dwelling on. I knew that when I was sharing with other officers and they were sharing with me, they too knew what I saw. They too had to deal with the same things. I was their outlet and they were mine.”

He goes on to write: “What I said and did on June 25, 2015 was admittedly out of line. But in no way, shape, or form did I feel I was offending the members of my department nor was that conversation meant for members of the community to hear, as is often the case with ‘Blue humor.’”

Hoover told the DPSST in the letter that he is not a racist, he had no chance at due process, Officer Stone is the real racist with an axe to grind against him and that some pertinent information in the case was not being investigated.

But, the final DPSST report shows that “staff has identified by a preponderance of evidence that Hoover engaged in misconduct. Staff has determined that the misconduct involves Misconduct, Gross Misconduct and Disregard for the Rights of Others.”

The Police Policy Committee will be meeting May 19 to vote whether to affirm the findings of the DPSST staff, and if so, whether Hoover’s police certifications should be revoked as a result.

The committee will make a recommendation to the DPSST Board for a final decision, which could come in July.

Fox 12 reached out to Hoover for comment on the report Tuesday, but did not hear back.

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