crime and punishment

Nicholas Perkins biography: 13 things about Portland firefighter

Nicholas Michael “Nick” Perkins works as a firefighter in Portland, Oregon, United States. In the evening of August 17, 2019, he arrived in Nashville, Tennessee, USA and spent the evening at a brewery.

The Portland Fire and Rescue (PF&R) sent Perkins in Nashville to attended a conference on the physical and mental health of firefighters and first responders. The fire bureau paid $2,300 for the conference.

Perkins was very intoxicated when he returned to his hotel, which was Fairfield Inn and Suites Nashville at Opryland, at around 4 a.m. on August 18, 2019. Using his credit card to gain access to the hotel instead of his electronic room key, he could not get in so he started banging and kicking on the door.

“I have my key, you black b—h!” Perkins yelled at a hotel clerk, an African American woman named Tresia Givens. “You black n—-r, open the door!”

Scared, Givens called the hotel’s assistant manager named Will Lawrence, who heard Perkins still using the racist slur through the phone while beating on the door. A corrections officer from Tennessee who was staying at the hotel that day witnessed the incident.

In January 2020, PF&R medical service and training division chief Ryan Gillespie recommended the termination of Perkins. However, Gillespie was overruled by PF&R chief Sara Boone, the fire bureau’s first ever African American chief.

Boone condemned Perkins’ use of targeted racial slurs against a resident of Nashville while representing PF&R on official city business. Still, she gave him a second chance, a decision supported by her boss Jo Ann Hardesty, an African American female fire commissioner.

Almost a year after the incident, the case was reinvestigated by the Willamette Week. Here are 13 more facts about Perkins:

  1. He was born in 1980 to Michael D. Perkins Jr. and Aleta Rae Perkins.
  2. He is a resident of Cowlit County, Washington, USA.
  3. His mother’s cousin Patrick Hutnik is a police officer in Olympia, Washington.
  4. Among his family and relatives are Emily Gayle West, Katrina L. Perkins and Scott A. Perkins.
  5. He previously lived in Thousand Oaks, California, USA as well as in various areas of Washington including Longview, Belfair and Kelso.
  6. He joined the PF&R in 2007. He is a member of Portland Firefighters Association.
  7. As an EMT and peer fitness trainer in the PF&R, he worked out of Station 24 in North Portland’s Overlook neighborhood.
  8. On August 19, 2019, his superiors learned about his racist behavior in Nashville and ordered him to return to Portland immediately so he missed the conference he was sent there for.
  9. On September 26, 2019, he expressed equal measures of amnesia and contrition when he was interviewed by PF&R deputy chief of professional standards Greg Espinosa and a human resources official for the bureau named Keith Hathorne.
  10. On November 22, 2019, the PF&R placed him on paid leave. He remained there for nearly seven months. His salary is $94,479.
  11. On February 4, 2020, he had a due process hearing before Boone and Portland Firefighters Association president Alan Ferschweiler.
  12. On May 26, 2020, Boone placed him under a last-chance agreement, which put him on probation for five years. He signed the agreement along with consent to diversity training. She did not fire him because he expressed “deep contrition” and a “true commitment to explore the racism he had never known to be a part of himself.”
  13. Under a separate last-chance agreement, he agreed to complete an “Equity 101″ online course offered by Portland, engage in a discussion guided by an equity mentor, complete one-one-one implicit bias training delivered by the city, donate $5,000 to a nonprofit that focuses on racial equity and refrain from drinking alcohol. He signed Boone’s discipline letter on June 12, 2020.

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