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A U.S. District Court jury last Friday awarded a former Canby police lieutenant $121,000 for economic and emotional distress, and for punitive damages.



A U.S. District Court jury last Friday awarded a former Canby police officer $121,000 for economic and emotional distress, and for punitive damages, in the conclusion to a lawsuit that found his superior officer forced him to resign in 2012.JOHN BAKER - Canby Police Chief Bret Smith

Dennis Swanberg, a 28-year veteran of the Canby Police Department, filed the suit in 2014 claiming Lt. Jorge Tro, Police Chief Bret Smith and the City of Canby forced him to retire in retaliation for a separate police corruption lawsuit Swanberg filed in 2009.

Although Judge Marco Hernandez dismissed the city as a defendant in the lawsuit, and the four-woman, four-man jury found Smith did not retaliate against Swanberg, the city remains on the hook for the fine as the jury determined that Lt. Tro retaliated against Swanberg, Canby City Administrator Rick Robinson told the Herald.

“Even though the city was dismissed as the defendant the city is still responsible for making that payment, not Lt. Tro,” Robinson said.

In 2010, the year following his filing of the corruption lawsuit, Swanberg participated in an investigation led by the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, which looked into allegations filed by his fellow officer, Teresa Britton, of gender discrimination by former Police Chief Greg Kroeplin. Later that year the Bureau found that the gender discrimination claim was valid.

Then, in April 2012, Tro and Smith informed Sawnberg he was being investigated for failing to file a report on a domestic disturbance incident to which he responded – he later lied about the missing report. The lawsuit claimed Tro and Smith were going to fire Swanberg with just cause, which resulted in his resigning before termination in order to keep the black mark off his employment record.

Smith, who is at home recovering from knee surgery, prepared a statement for the Herald, saying he is looking forward to putting the lawsuit behind the department and moving forward.

“My understanding, review and involvement of the investigation did not identify retaliatory behavior on the part of Lt. Tro,” Smith wrote. “In all my working interactions with him, he has demonstrated that he possesses a character of integrity and fairness. The city is disappointed about the outcome of this case concerning Lt. Tro because it was the city’s position that the incident was thoroughly and objectively investigated without bias and prejudice, (and that the investigation) reached a conclusion based on factual information. However, the city recognizes and respects the jury’s decision, identifying that this is an opportunity to move forward and continue to strive to meet best practices regarding its employees.”

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