Costly ex-West Linn police chief survived earlier investigations
State and local officials have called for investigations into former West Linn Police Chief Terry Timeus, ex-Lt. Mike Stradley and Det. Tony Reeves in the wake of the news that the suburban city paid $600,000 to settle a suit over the false arrest of a black Portland man and other misconduct, including illegal surveillance and racist banter.
But records show the shocking story told recently inThe Oregonian is not the first time those three current and former cops have faced official scrutiny. Some of their own fellow police officers raised the alarm repeatedly over a three-year span starting in 2014 — detailing flagrant and repeated misconduct.
And some of the same officials now expressing concern were aware of it at the time.
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This is part of a series of articles related to Terry Timeus and the 2017 false arrest of Michael Fesser. Click here to follow the story from the beginning.
The Oregon Department of Justice in 2014 launched an investigation of Timeus, Stradley and Reeves — also known as Daniel Poitras — based on allegations made by three West Linn police officers represented by lawyer Dan Thenell. The three officers also triggered an investigation of Reeves by the Clackamas County District Attorney. The officers' allegations were simultaneously shared with top officials in West Linn.
What those officers' alleged then now reads like a prelude to the incident that recently led the city to fund a hefty payout over major police misconduct.
They alleged misconduct by Timeus and Stradley, a former Portland gang cop, that included a bogus arrest, forgery and favoritism. The officers also alleged lying by Reeves, who then went by the name Poitras.
The case "involves the improper order by Chief Timeus to arrest a West Linn resident, the subsequent forgery of the police report by Sergeant Mike Stradley, and the eventual cover up by Chief Timeus," wrote Thenell, a former Washington County Deputy District Attorney, in a May 22, 2014, letter.
Today, Thenell says the new public concerns about Timeus have made him extremely frustrated on behalf of the three cops he represented.
"I represented, at that time, three super-ethical police officers who tried to do the right thing. And the system did nothing," he said. "They should have investigated these guys six years ago."
Other officers blow the whistle
In 2014, Thenell represented the three West Linn officers who felt they were being retaliated against for blowing the whistle: Det. Sgt. Kirk Tonkin and officers Brad Moyle and Nick Amendolara.
Thenell alerted West Linn's then-City Manager Chris Jordan in May 2014 in a detailed 10-page letter, saying "the actions of Chief Timeus have destroyed morale amongst your officers causing a mass exodus of veteran officers to other jurisdictions."
Thenell then took their concerns to the Oregon Department of Justice, accusing Timeus of abusing his office, a crime called official misconduct. The detailed allegations included:
• A wrongful arrest ordered by Timeus and the subsequent doctoring of police records to remove Timeus' role.
• Two wrongful searches: one of a vehicle, the other of a home.
• Three instances of officers detaining citizens without probable cause, two of which resulted in arrest, and pressure from officers involved to engage in the same behavior.
The officers also said that their colleagues had illegally searched a home, illegally entered a citizen's home to make an arrest, and misused a system intended to conduct background checks on criminal suspects.
The officers said their ranks were being sullied by improper hiring procedures and by the hiring of officers with a history of alleged misconduct. In one incident, they claimed Timeus altered the failing test scores of a recruit — his girlfriend's sister — to boost her eligibility for a job.
Inside the department, the officers charged professional standards were a novelty. They recounted incidents of insubordinate back-talk, lying and misrepresentation to their union; Timeus's acknowledgement of his own illegal behavior; and repeated episodes of on-duty drunkenness by the former chief, including coming intoxicated to crime scenes and once calling the department for help assembling an AR-15 that he was allegedly too drunk to assemble on his own.
Prompted by the whistleblowers' same complaint, the Clackamas County District Attorney's Office conducted an extensive review of Reeves —then named Poitras — under what's called the Brady rule, to determine if he had lied and could no longer be considered credible enough to testify.
The office sought help in the inquiry from the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office "given the nature of the allegations involved," records show.
Sheriff's detectives were asked to investigate, to compile reports and records, and to interview other police about the allegations levied by their fellow officers.
In December 2014, a senior assistant attorney general, Colin Benson, wrote to Thenell with the results of the Oregon DOJ official misconduct investigation. He wrote that there was "insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that either Chief Timeus or Sergeant Stradley committed a crime."
Meanwhile, the district attorney's office convened a committee to review the allegations about Poitras, records show. That committee found that "the majority of the allegations fell in the category of work performance issues and legal knowledge,… Several allegations touched directly upon Officer Poitras' honestly, or lack thereof, during the course of his official duties."
But it said there is "insufficient information or evidence" to conclude that Poitras had lied.
On Feb. 29, 2016, one of Thenell's clients, Detective Sergeant Tonkin, wrote to the West Linn City Council saying he was resigning after reporting serious and potentially criminal misconduct to Chief Timeus and then-City Manager Chris Jordan, to the Oregon Department of Justice, only to face retaliation.
"I implore you to look into these matters, demand transparency from all city departments and closely examine the conduct within the police department for waste of funds, civil rights' violations, corruption, illegal conduct and mismanagement," he wrote.
Poitras, the cop who'd been investigated for alleged lying, legally changed his first name from Daniel to Tony in July 2015, then in March 2017 changed his last name to Reeves.
Said Thenell, the three whistleblower cops' lawyer, "Had the multiple agencies that were aware of this six years ago done something, we wouldn't be having this conversation."
Lee van der Voo, a former Pamplin Media Group reporter, contributed to this story.
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