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City set to pay $60,000 to settle discrimination suit by former Portland detective demoted for misuse of take-home police car

Robert N. Hollins III’s extracurricular use of the city-owned, unmarked police car was discovered after it had racked up extra mileage and needed repairs.  (Maxine Bernstein/Oregonian)
Robert N. Hollins III’s extracurricular use of the city-owned, unmarked police car was discovered after it had racked up extra mileage and needed repairs. (Maxine Bernstein/Oregonian)
By Maxine Bernstein Oregonian

The city of Portland is poised to pay $60,000 to settle a discrimination suit filed by former Portland police detective, who left the bureau in September 2019 after he was demoted for misusing his take-home police car.

Robert N. Hollins III had filed a suit against the city, alleging racial discrimination.

Hollins argued the Police Bureau fails to treat white officers the same as minority officers accused of misconduct. Hollins is Black.

Hollins had racked up nearly 100,000 miles in three years on his take-home detective’s car, including 15,635 miles in under five months, according to a police summary of the bureau’s investigation.

He also left a police surveillance assignment to take care of family affairs out of town without notifying a supervisor, the summary report said.

Hollins’ extracurricular use of the car was discovered after it needed repairs because of the additional mileage.

A unanimous Police Review Board in April 2019 recommended Hollins be fired for “untruthfulness,” for not being honest about what led to his excessive mileage on his unmarked police car. Then-Chief Danielle Outlaw didn’t agree that Hollins was untruthful and instead demoted him.

The demotion became effective Sept. 7, 2019, and Hollins left the bureau at the end of that month. He had been part of a retire/rehire program, which was to end for him at that time in any case.

Hollins had sought much more from the city in his lawsuit, about $960,000 in damages.

Hollins, 59, reached by phone Friday, declined comment on the pending settlement of his lawsuit.

The proposed settlement goes before the City Council for a vote on Wednesday.

In the city’s formal response to the suit filed in court, Deputy City Attorney Anne Milligan wrote that Hollins drove the city-assigned car in “gross excess of any normal commuting schedule,” driving his assigned police vehicle “thousands of miles.” Hollins had admitted that he had repeatedly taken the car on personal trips to the Oregon coast, Milligan wrote.

Milligan argued in court papers that the city had valid, reasonable and non-discriminatory grounds for Hollins’ demotion.

In the suit, Hollins said he was allowed with his commanding officers’ knowledge to drive his take-home car to his homes in Kalama and Kelso, Washington, which were beyond the 35-mile distance that the bureau typically allows for detectives with take-home vehicles.

He said the high mileage resulted from the extensive amount of overtime he regularly worked and the fact that he was regularly on call for 24 hours at a time, according to the suit.

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