West Linn police chief placed on leave
Following a 5-0 West Linn City Council vote last Wednesday, April 1 to begin an independent investigation of the city's handling of the Michael Fesser case, West Linn announced tonight that Police Chief Terry Kruger has been placed on paid administrative leave.
"In order to further ensure a complete, fair, and impartial investigation, Interim City Manager John Williams has placed Police Chief Terry Kruger on paid administrative leave for the duration of the investigation," the city wrote in a press release. "Administrative leave ensures that all parties have the opportunity to clearly and completely answer questions and explain their actions. It is not a determination of wrongdoing on the part of Chief Kruger or anyone else. Any such determination can only be made after the investigation is complete."
During the investigation, WLPD Captain Peter Mahuna will serve as acting chief of police.
West Linn found itself at the center of national headlines after it came to a $600,000 settlement with Fesser earlier this year. Fesser, a black man from Portland, was unlawfully investigated and eventually arrested in 2017 at his work by West Linn police as a favor to his boss, Eric Benson, a friend of then-WLPD Chief Terry Timeus. Fesser eventually sued Benson and the tow company he owned — which resulted in a $400,000 settlement — before also suing the city of West Linn.
Amid the fallout of the $600,000 settlement between the city and Fesser, a number of community members called for Kruger — who received Fesser's tort claim during his first day on the job in 2018 — to be fired after it was revealed that he continued to employ one of the involved officers and at one point referred to the officer as a "victim." A public records request also showed that Kruger recused himself from the lawsuit's proceedings due to his own personal relationship with Benson. Additionally, in transcripts from executive sessions released by the city last week, Kruger was shown defending some of WLPD's actions in the Fesser case.
Both the U.S. Department of Justice and local district attorneys are already investigating West Linn's handling of the case, and the city said its own investigation would not overlap with those ongoing probes.
The work will be done by an independent investigator and it will cover the city's handling of the case from the time the tort claim was received to the date the settlement was reached.
"The scope will include how the City Council, City Manager, City Attorney, and other staff received information on this matter, as well as how the Police Department responded to the claim," the press release said.
There is no timeframe for the investigation, though the city said it "expects to retain an investigative firm or individual as quickly as possible after reviewing potential candidates with the City Council."
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