Portland, OR – A Portland Public Schools (PPS) football coach said he was fired from his job with the district because he is a sergeant with the city’s police department.
Portland Police Bureau (PPB) Sergeant Ken Duilio, who was brought on board as the Cleveland High School football coach in 2019, said that critics began pressuring the school district to fire him after he spoke out in support of police reform activists on June 26, The Oregonian reported.
Protesters began posting fliers around the city, which included the sergeant’s photo and “distorted” details regarding two use-of-force incidents he was involved in nearly 20 years ago, he said.
Sgt. Duilio said that approximately one week ago, PPS asked him to report to the district office to answer to concerns raised about the incidents mentioned on the fliers, The Oregonian reported.
But when he came in, he allegedly was told that the district “didn’t see a path moving forward because of pressure they’re getting,” the sergeant said.
Sgt. Duilio said he was asked to resign, but that he respectfully declined.
Days later, he said, he was asked to resign again.
Sgt. Duilio, who refused to name the district official who asked him to resign, said he refused to give up his coaching position yet again, The Oregonian reported.
On Monday, PPS Athletic Director Marshall Haskins notified Sgt. Duilio that his coaching contract would not be renewed.
Haskins denied allegations that Sgt. Duilio was fired due to his role as a law enforcement officer, and claimed the district simply decided “to go in a different direction,” The Oregonian reported.
“We don’t make decisions based on pressure from parents or outside people,” he said.
But Sgt. Duilio said he “100 percent” believes his PPB job was the reason why he was stripped of his coaching position.
“It’s unjust, from whoever is leading this,” Sgt. Duilio told The Oregonian. “PPS still had a role in it. They could have stood up to them.”
One of the incidents mentioned in the fliers involved Sgt. Duilio and two fellow officers being attacked by at least five gang members outside a Portland restaurant, The Oregonian reported.
Sgt. Duilio was not injured in the vicious assault, but the two other off-duty officers were both hospitalized.
The second incident occurred in July of 2001, after Sgt. Duilio responded to a report of a man with a gun at a convenience store, The Oregonian reported.
While he was en route to the scene, a man later identified as Bruce Browne managed to wrestle a 9mm handgun away from the suspect – unbeknownst to Sgt. Duilio.
When Sgt. Duilio arrived, he mistakenly believed Browne was the gunman and shot him, The Oregonian reported.
Browne survived his wounds and ended up receiving a $200,000 settlement.
A Multnomah County grand jury found no criminal wrongdoing with regards to Sgt. Duilio’s use of force, The Oregonian reported.
Sgt. Duilio said that the synopses his critics included on the fliers were “distorted,” and that there was “more to” the circumstances behind what actually took place.
The sergeant noted that PPS refused to provide him with the names of those who were calling for him to be fired.
Cleveland High School Booster Club President Scott Idler said the school community was stunned by the district’s abrupt decision to fire their football coach, The Oregonian reported.
“I’m at a loss for words, frankly,” Sgt. Duilio said. “I love working with kids.”
“Potentially, someday I’ll be back,” he added.
Portland Police Association (PPA) President Daryl Turner said that the district’s decision was discriminatory, The Oregonian reported.
“He’s built relationships and partnerships with people and youth in the community,” Turner said of the 23-year veteran-of-the-force. “He lives in Portland, raises his family in Portland and has helped direct dozens of kids who may otherwise be going a different direction were they not playing football.”
“It is a shame and unfair that they fired him based on the fact that he’s a Portland police officer,” the union president added. “It is discriminatory and contrary to what they should be teaching kids in school.”
The school district has not responded to The Police Tribune’s request for comment.