West Linn police accused of racial harassment during arrest
West Linn police have hired Portland attorney Michael Tom to look into allegations from a West Linn man who says he was racially harassed by police in December, according to Acting WLPD Chief Peter Mahuna.
The man, Alex Juarez, posted about the ordeal on Nextdoor in January and received a wide array of responses from neighbors.
WLPD contacted Juarez in early February and hired Tom, who specializes in workplace investigations, to look into the matter after learning about the social media discussion. Reached by the Tidings, Tom didn't answer any questions about the inquiry, saying he could not comment on an ongoing investigation.
Mahuna said he could not comment on inquiry until the investigation is complete and criminal case adjudicated.
"We chose an outside investigator for a few reasons, but mainly we believe it increases public faith in the investigation overall — specifically, its thoroughness and objectivity," Mahuna said.
According to Juarez, he was followed home Dec. 21 after dropping off flowers at his girlfriend's house. Juarez told the Tidings that the man who followed him said he was a former cop and got out of his car to yell at him once Juarez was home.
"I thought he was going to ask directions and he kept saying 'come here, come here' and then he kept yelling racial slurs," Juarez said.
He said the man, whose name he does not know, told him "your f*cking people don't belong here."
According to Juarez's account, the man had a hand on his holstered gun as he was yelling. The man then called police dispatch and reported Juarez was acting drunk and belligerent.
As Juarez tells it, the man said Juarez was incomprehensible, aggressive and couldn't walk straight.
The man told Juarez he followed him home because he was driving erratically, though Juarez maintained he was not.
After the man called dispatch, Juarez said three West Linn police officers arrived within two minutes. Juarez said the man seemed to know the officers who arrived.
The officers began yelling "Why are you so drunk? How many drinks have you had?," Juarez said.
According to Juarez, when he tried to explain to the officers that the man was harassing him and he wanted to go back inside, the officers informed him that they would detain him.
Juarez said the officers did not have a breathalyzer on them, so they asked him to complete a sobriety test.
"I explained to them that I had a speech impediment and also that I had been getting back into jogging. I explained that I had IT (Iliotibial) band syndrome pretty bad and it makes it so that you can't put your legs all the way over across each other so walking the heel-toe test was impossible for me," Juarez said.
Juarez said doing the heal-toe test with IT band syndrome was painful and humiliating.
According to Juarez, one of the West Linn officers involved was Neil Taylor, who Juarez claims was demoted in 2018 after a racist incident. According to records from the Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training, Taylor was demoted in July 2019 from sergeant to officer. Acting WLPD Chief Peter Mahuna said Taylor chose to move from sergeant to officer because as the newest sergeant, he would have had to work night shift for the foreseeable future.
Officers brought Juarez to the police station, where they performed a breathalyzer test. The test returned Juarez's BAC as 0.0, he said. Juarez said he also provided a sample for a urinalysis but did not receive the results.
After three and a half hours at the station and the results of the breathalyzer test, Juarez said the officers concluded that he was telling the truth and gave him a ride home.
According to City Prosecutor John Millar, criminal charges were filed and the case is currently active in West Linn Municipal Court. Because the case is active, Millar noted the police report could not be disclosed at the moment.
Before the independent investigation began, Juarez said he had been considering filing suit against the city for his arrest but that he would wait until criminal proceedings took place.
Juarez ran for West Linn City Council last November.
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