from the non-denial-denials-follow dept
A former campus cop for the University of Oregon (now a court clerk) has sued the school for wrongful termination, something he claims was the result of retaliatory actions by his UOPD (University of Oregon Police Dept.) supervisors. The list of allegations is long and detailed, but much of the friction seems to track back to an (allegedly) oft-discussed "enemies" list maintained by one UOPD officer that (again, allegedly) contained a number of people, ideas and entities that these officers felt should "eat a bowl of dicks."
The names and terms on the list – which range from politicians to famous personas such as Chelsea Handler and even particular crowds such as “mouth breathers” – were put there when UOPD officers disliked them for one reason or another. In the opinion of the officers, those referred to on the list were entitled to “eat a bowl of dicks,” according to the lawsuit.That this sort of behavior occurs is no surprise. In the "us vs. them" environment of law enforcement, it's almost expected. But it's rarely admitted to and even more rarely exposed in such a public fashion. Cleavenger alleges that the defendants discussed this list during briefings and many other times during the course of the shift and, most worryingly, that the list contained names of University of Oregon staff and administration.
[James] Cleavenger is a graduate of UO Law and currently works as a clerk at the Eugene federal court. In his lawsuit, he said that the list was assembled during night shifts and that several officers contributed. The list was kept on Officer Eric LeRoy’s cell phone and, according to the lawsuit, the list was a constant topic and debated over during work hours.
Rather than the expected denial, the defendants openly admitted (in their filed response to the allegations) the list exists, although they claim it wasn't discussed quite as frequently as Cleavenger alleges and doesn't contain the names of people these officers worked for (and in conjunction with).
[...] admit that there were remarks made about a bowl of dicks list but deny such remarks were made during "many" briefings; and admit the referenced list was and is maintained on Leroy's cell phone. The remaining allegations of paragraph 20 are denied.Despite the defendants stating in a legal filing that the list was referred to as the "bowl of dicks" list, a statement from the chief of the UOPD denied the phone-contained list was referred to by that name.
In response to paragraph 21, Defendants admit the list identified in paragraph 20 contained dozens of entries; admit O.J. Simpson, Oprah Winfrey and Hilary Clinton were and are on this list; admit Plaintiff alleges he does not have a copy of the list; and admit officers will confirm the existence of the list.
“The list was not meant maliciously, it was not labeled with the vulgarity referred to in the court complaint, and was not a collection of ‘enemies,’” said UO Police Chief Carolyn McDermed.But it was labeled that way, and the defendants are on record saying so. The allegations in Cleavenger's complaint note that the list was a "work in progress and constantly updated," a detail that caught the eye of the UO Matters blog. It issued a public records request for the "bowl of dicks" list and received its own version, albeit one that now contains redactions.
And, note that the court complaint explains that the “eat a bowl …” list was a work in progress that was frequently updated, debated, and discussed. So why does UO only provide one version, and act as if it’s the only one? Here’s UO’s response to my request for “any public records that list the members of the “Bowl of Dicks” list kept by UOPD employee Eric LeRoy.”:There are two names redacted in the UO matters version, both of whom are former Oregon football players.
On FridayJul 11, 2014, at 10:22 AM, Office of Public Records <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
"… The attached list is responsive to your request. It is a list of names that was maintained on a UOPD officer’s phone as referenced in a pending litigation.
Thank you for contacting the office with your request."
Every other public records response from UO includes this boiler-plate:
"The office considers these documents to be fully responsive to your request, and will now close your matter. Thank you for contacting the office with your request."
Why did they leave it out this time? Because they’ve got more lists?
Cliff HarrisApparently, this information wasn't deemed sensitive enough to redact from the UOPD's version of the definitely-not-a-"bowl-of-dicks" list. What's not contained in these documents are Cleavenger's more serious allegations: that University of Oregon staff were included in the extensive compilation.
What it does look like is a list of annoyances, running from A-, B- and C-list celebrities (Beyonce, Miley Cyrus, Gary Busey) to stuff that generally annoys a large subsection of the public (mouth breathers, fraternities, Comcast, Windows Vista). In fact, for the most part, this is probably one of the least controversial "hate" lists to ever be outed. Osama bin Laden makes the list. So does David Hasselhoff. And Adobe Acrobat.
One of the stranger inclusions is "ORS 352.385," the state statute that provides for the creation and funding of university police departments. Were these campus cops suffering from a bit of self-hatred? Maybe they didn't see themselves as "real" cops and felt that they shouldn't be expected to do much more than hole up in the office and compile a list of eminently hateable entities.
So… tempest in a dickbowl? Possibly, but there are still unanswered questions as to whether the list(s) that have been made public were edited by Officer Eric LeRoy before turning it over to authorities. If these officers were including campus staff on its enemies list, that's definitely a cause for concern, especially if it prompted any sort of harassment under the color of law.
But at this point, there's no indication this was much more than a crude inside joke for UOPD officers, albeit one that apparently consumed a great deal of each workday.
The university has gone on the defensive, however, which indicates there may be something to Cleavenger's allegations.
"A recent story with information about a legal matter involving a former employee of the University of Oregon Police Department focused primarily on the unproven allegations of the former public safety officer and did not provide the university’s responses to the courts or the newspaper reporter,” said the university.The "blame the press" approach -- one that nearly universally goes terribly but is almost always the first reaction to negative attention. But, considering the following was the initial response, what did the university PD expect?
UO Police Chief Carolyn McDermed declined this week to comment on Cleavenger’s firing, saying that the university “does not comment on pending litigation.”Now, the press is focusing on the fact that the UOPD not only admitted its officers compiled an enemies list, but that it also attached a vulgar name to said list. The official denial by Chief McDermed says otherwise, but one would think that the legal document filed in response to Cleavenger's allegations is the more trustworthy version. And that version clearly says the list was referred to as the "bowl of dicks" list.
Police officers should know better than anyone else how much evidence a cell phone can store. It's one thing to be obnoxious behind closed doors during long, boring night shifts. It's quite another to (allegedly) hassle an officer out of a job because he disagreed with the contents of a vulgarly-named list and the amount of time being spent keeping such a non-essential item updated.
This list doesn't seem to indicate these officers' attitude towards the general public was less healthy than any other person's. In fact, in its own perverse way, it somewhat humanizes these public servants. I mean, who doesn't hate Vista and Acrobat? But if further versions come to light -- ones that show the police were adding staff or students to this obviously negative list -- then it's likely the surface indicator of something uglier lying underneath.