A damning report by The Oregonian of corrupt policing targeting a black man in a Portland suburb has led to a call from the Oregon governor to investigate the West Linn Police Department.
Oregonian reporter Maxine Bernstein published an account this week of a court settlement that resulted from former West Linn Police Chief Terry Timeus allegedly recruiting his officers "to initiate an unwarranted, racially motivated surveillance and arrest" of Michael Fesser, a black Portland man who worked for a fishing buddy of the chief.
On Wednesday, Gov. Kate Brown, Clackamas County District Attorney John Foote, Multnomah County Attorney Rod Underhill, and U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) called for investigations into the West Linn Police Department's conduct.
The new West Linn police chief placed one of his sergeants on paid administrative leave this afternoon.
"The Clackamas County District Attorney's office announced today a full investigation into the actions from three years ago as concern Mr. Fesser and the West Linn Police Department," said Police Chief Terry Kruger in a statement. "In light of the recently released transcripts produced through depositions taken after our internal disciplinary investigation was completed, we welcome this investigation with full cooperation and acceptance. Today I placed Sergeant Tony Reeves (the only remaining member of the West Linn Police Department associated with the Fesser case) on paid administrative leave, pending the final outcome of Clackamas County District Attorney's investigation."
Meanwhile, Gov. Brown instructed the state's Department of Public Safety Standards and Training "to conduct a full and thorough review of this matter as swiftly as possible," The Oregonian reported.
Bernstein's article described abuses of power and "old-boy-style racism" on the part of the West Linn Police Department for its arrest of Fesser, which also involved members of what was then known as the gang enforcement team at the Portland Police Bureau.
Fesser was planning to bring claims of workplace discrimination against his then-employer, Southeast Portland-based A&B Towing, when he was pulled over by Portland and West Linn police officers in February of 2017. The police seized a letter he had written to his boss detailing the discrimination claims, along with his phone and cash. When Fesser later retrieved the items, Sgt. Reeves alerted him that he was fired from his job at the towing company.
Court records showed the owner of A&B Towing, Eric Benson, coordinated the arrest with Timeus, the West Linn chief.
"How do police fire me from my job?" Fesser asked The Oregonian. Fesser than filed a civil suit in September of 2017 at Multnomah County Courthouse alleging racial discrimination. He was awarded $600,000.
"Defendants were not seeking to engage in legitimate law enforcement. Rather, the officers were acting based on a striking and alarming personal malice, racism, and desire to protect a 'good old boy' from the West Linn community," Fesser's attorney, Paul Buchanan, told The Oregonian.
Another result of the court case and the Oregonian article? Portland Commissioner Chloe Eudaly today suspended all city contracts with A&B Towing.