West Linn Police: Lawmakers want U.S. attorney to look into Fesser case
This story has been updated from its original version.
U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Portland have asked U.S. Attorney Bill Williams to investigate the West Linn Police Department's arrest of a black Portland man, which resulted in the man losing his job and suing the police in 2018.
In a letter to Williams, the lawmakers noted that Gov. Kate Brown has also called for an investigation of WLPD and its arrest of Michael Fesser. Their letter mentions "serious concerns about whether the West Linn Police Department may have violated the civil rights of Michael Fesser with the aid of Portland police officers by subjecting him to a cruel and prolonged odyssey of racial targeting that reflects the worst abuses of African-Americans in our nation's modern history."
Their letter comes a day after the Clackamas County district attorney's office announced its own investigation into the incident. On Monday, Feb. 10, the city of West Linn's insurance provider will pay $600,000 to Fesser to settle the claim.
A letter from Clackamas County District Attorney John Foote to West Linn Police Chief Terry Kruger said that his office would do the investigation with the Multnomah County DA's office. The probe will look into "any possible criminal activity along with an evaluation of any conduct by Sgt. Reeves that could implicate our obligations under Brady v. Maryland."
Brady v. Maryland is a landmark 1963 U.S. Supreme Court Case that set a precedent that required prosecutors to provide to the defense any evidence that could exonerate defendants.
Fesser's lawsuit filed in mid-July 2018 in Multnomah County Circuit Court alleged racial discrimination by WLPD officers, which led to Fesser being fired from his job at A&B Towing in Portland. According to the lawsuit, Fesser's boss, Eric Benson, went to his friend, then-West Linn Police Chief Terry Timeus, and asked him to investigate Fesser after Fesser complained about racism and harassment from co-workers at A&B Towing.
Though neither Fesser nor A&B Towing had any affiliation with West Linn, Timeus asked two WLPD detectives, Det. Mike Boyd and Sgt. Tony Reeves, to investigate Fesser at his Portland workplace and ultimately arrest him with help from Portland police.
Timeus has since resigned from the department, following accusations that he drove drunk.
Boyd left the department in 2017. Reeves remained on the force.
"In light of the recently released transcripts produced through depositions taken after our internal disciplinary investigation was completed, we welcome this investigation (by the DA) with full cooperation and acceptance," West Linn Police Chief Terry Kruger wrote in a press statement Feb. 12. "Today I placed Sgt. 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."
Kruger's statement also mentioned the significant overturn of the WLPD in the past three years his commitment to training everyone on the force in implicit bias, diversity and procedural justice.
"The officers here are on a strong path of ethical policing and fair and equitable service to all members of the public," Kruger wrote.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.