Portland Police Will Pay Nearly $700,000 To Former Official Who Pushed To Defund Them

Jo Ann Hardesty spearheaded $15 million in cuts to the police budget.
PORTLAND, OR - OCTOBER 11: Police detain passengers in a mutual aid van during an Indigenous Peoples Day of Rage protest on October 11, 2020 in Portland, Oregon. Protesters tore down statues of two U.S. presidents and broke windows out of downtown businesses Sunday night before police intervened. (Photo by Nathan Howard/Getty Images)
Nathan Howard/Getty Images

A former Portland city commissioner who pushed to defund the police will get a $680,000 payout from the police over claims that cops leaked information falsely implicating her in a hit-and-run.

Jo Ann Hardesty was briefly falsely implicated in a March 3, 2021, hit-and-run after a 911 caller mistakenly identified her as the driver of the vehicle that hit her.

Two Portland Police Bureau police officers allegedly leaked the false implication of Hardesty to media outlets and others, but she was quickly cleared in the minor collision.

Hardesty, the first black woman to serve as a Portland city commissioner, then sued the city and the police in late 2021, claiming the alleged police leaks were racially and politically motivated.

Her lawsuit, which sought $5 million, was set to go to trial this month before the parties reached the massive $680,000 settlement. The payout will come from Portland’s police union and the two officers allegedly involved in the leak.

Hardesty said she hopes the settlement will prevent something like this from happening again.

“This settlement holds the Portland Police Association and the individuals accountable for their wrongful conduct and the unnecessary harm they caused,” Hardesty told Oregon Public Broadcasting.

“While this settlement does not make me whole, I’m hopeful that shining a light on this unfortunate situation will prevent others from having this burden brought upon them,” she said.


The city previously settled its part of Hardesty’s lawsuit in August for $5,000 and a written apology from Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler.

At the time, the police leak also prompted Wheeler to launch an investigation into the leak’s origin.

Less than two weeks after the hit-and-run incident, the president of the Portland Police Association, Brian Hunzeker, resigned, the union citing his “serious, isolated mistake related to the Police Bureau’s investigation into the alleged hit-and-run by Commissioner Hardesty.”

Hardesty’s lawsuit had accused Hunzeker and another officer of being involved in the leak.

In 2020, Hardesty was on the front lines of the push to defund Portland’s police department during the riots following the murder of George Floyd. In Portland, the daily, often violent protests drew hundreds and stretched into October.

During the summer of 2020, Hardesty spearheaded $15 million in cuts to the police budget. That fall, she pushed for the police department to lose million of dollars more.

Since then, Portland beefed up its police budget again after homicides ticked up and amid a police staffing shortage.

“I think people acknowledge that we’re at an inflection point in our city,” the mayor said earlier this year as the city considered a budget with funding for dozens more cops. “Studies show people are choosing not to stay here. I see this as a critical moment in the city’s history that we should respond to.”

In July, 2020, Hardesty apologized for claiming that police “saboteurs” were infiltrating the protests and even starting fires.

Hardesty had said in an online briefing that, “I want people to know that I do not believe there’s any protesters in Portland that are setting fires, that are creating crisis. I absolutely believe it’s police action, and they’re sending saboteurs and provocateurs into peaceful crowds so they justify their inhumane treatment of people who are standing up for their rights.”

Hardesty, a firm progressive, ultimately lost her reelection bid to another Democrat who ran as a law and order centrist.

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