Did a police sergeant in Portland, Oregon, lose his high school football coaching job because he’s a high-profile police officer? He says yes — and there’s a case to be made in his favor.
Ken Duilio, who has served as head coach coach at Cleveland High School since 2019, was told on Monday that he wouldn’t be coming back this season. The school, of course, said his role with the Portland Police Bureau didn’t play into the decision to let him go.
Portland Public Schools athletic director Marshall Haskins told The Oregonian that the district “chose to go in a different direction” and that Duilio’s contract wouldn’t be renewed on Aug. 1
Duilio, however, told the outlet that his role as a police sergeant was “100 percent” the reason his contract wasn’t renewed. The concatenation of events surrounding his dumping seem to bear this out.
First, it’s worth pointing out Duilio’s bona fides. He’s been a head coach at three schools in the Portland Interscholastic League. He took over at Cleveland in 2019. At the time, The Oregonian reported the coach “has 11 seasons of head coaching experience in the Portland Interscholastic League, at Madison of Northeast Portland (2006-09) and Wilson of Southwest Portland (2010-16). At both of those schools, Duilio took over as head coach after a winless season, and at both of those schools, his team won the PIL title in his third year.”
“Duilio’s ability to revive programs is undeniable, and he said the challenge of turning things around is among the appeals of the Cleveland coaching position,” the outlet said. “Any steps toward improving the state of the program — regardless whether they are reflected in wins and losses — would be considered a successful season.”
Separately, on June 26, Duilio spoke at a media briefing on unrest in the city, noting that “for officers, this is painful.”
This didn’t generate much empathy among those who were perfectly happy for this to be as painful as possible for police officers:
Portland Police Sergeant (and consequent bastard) Ken Dulio wants you to know he sure is sad about how we treat him as a direct result of his choice to join a murdering gang of state-funded domestic abusers (in senses both filially and writ large) and wishes we were nicer to him
— Alpha Beta (@betacuck4lyfe) June 28, 2020
According to The Oregonian, fliers began appearing on telephone poles around Portland soon thereafter, referring to two incidents Duilio was involved in back in 2001 — some 19 years ago.
In one of the incidents, the outlet reported, “Duilio was one of three off-duty officers assaulted by at least five gang associates outside a downtown Portland restaurant, according to a 2001 story from The Oregonian. The assaults were thought to be retaliation, with previous contact between the assailants and the officers, who at the time were working in North Portland. Two officers were hospitalized from the attack, but Duilio was unharmed.
“A separate incident, also nearly 20 years ago, involved Duilio’s shooting of Bruce Browne,” the article read.
“The July 2001 shooting, which was a case of mistaken identity, resulted in a $200,000 settlement, The Oregonian reported. Duilio responded to a call about a man with a gun at a convenience store gas station on Northeast Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Browne had wrestled a 9mm handgun from the man in question. Duilio mistook Browne for the man who had had the gun and shot and wounded him. A Multnomah County grand jury found no criminal wrongdoing, but Police Chief Mark Kroeker called the shooting ‘regretful’ and visited Browne in the hospital.”
Duilio, for his part, has argued that some of the facts referred to in the fliers were “distorted” and that “there is more to it.”
Whatever the case, Duilio said he was called in to the district office to discuss the fliers, and recalled being told that the district “didn’t see a path moving forward because of pressure they’re getting.”
Duilio said he was asked to resign several times, which he declined to do. He was eventually fired by Haskins.
Haskins said the firing had nothing to do with other groups.
“We don’t make decisions based on pressure from parents or outside people,” he said.
Fine, but this is what we can tell by looking in: Duilio was a coach with a strong record of turning programs around who’d been at Cleveland High School for only one year.
Haskins said it didn’t have to do with the coach’s job as a police officer or “pressure from parents or outside people.” That then leaves the possibility of a personnel clash — Duilio simply wasn’t getting along with the people who matter.
However, it would then seem a bit odd that “Scott Idler, president of Cleveland’s booster club, said the decision was a complete surprise to the Cleveland community,” according to The Oregonian.
Anyone who’s spent any time around booster club types know they’re generally the Adam Schefters of high school athletics. Need to know if the girls volleyball coach is getting blowback from a mom who’s angry her daughter isn’t getting more playing time? There’s a booster club president for that.
Rock-solid proof that Duilio was let go because he was a cop, though? Absolutely not — and nothing will be. You don’t get to be in Marshall Haskins’ position if you give people ammunition for lawsuits.
It looks awfully suspicious, however, that in the city that’s arguably seen the most anti-police foment in recent weeks, a successful high school football coach who also happens to be a prominent law enforcement officer doesn’t have his contract renewed shortly after a media briefing which received significant attention.
The Portland Police Association is going as far as to call the move “discriminatory.”
“He’s built relationships and partnerships with people and youth in the community. 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,” Portland Police Association president Daryl Turner said.
“It is a shame and unfair that they fired him based on the fact that he’s a Portland police officer. It is discriminatory and contrary to what they should be teaching kids in school.”
What they should be teaching our kids, however, is a lot different than what they actually are teaching them.
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