West Linn hires outside firm for investigation of Fesser case
This story has been updates from its original version.
The West Linn City Council is moving forward with an independent investigation into the city of West Linn's handling of the Michael Fesser case.
At a virtual meeting Monday, April 20, the council directed interim City Manager John Williams to enter into a contract of up to $50,000 with the OIR Group to conduct the investigation.
In February, revelations about Fesser's racially motivated arrest by West Linn police prompted outrage from citizens as well as investigations into the matter by Clackamas and Multnomah county district attorneys (DA) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).
Over the past two months, councilors have begun forming a police oversight task force and requested a diversity and equity audit of the city to go along with the independent investigation.
At the April 20 meeting, Councilor Bill Relyea told the council he spoke with an auditor from the city of Portland as well as a legal counselor who helped Clackamas County look into past issues with a sheriff. Relyea said both recommended the city hire the OIR group to conduct its investigation.
Though most of the work for the California-based OIR Group centers around California law enforcement agencies, it has conducted a number of investigations into Portland Police Bureau-involved shootings and in-custody deaths, as well as a 2018 review of practices and policies of the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office.
Relyea and West Linn Councilor Richard Sakelik have worked with the OIR group to determine the scope of the investigation, according to Relyea.
The councilors made clear that this independent investigation is not to overlap with the other investigations by the DAs and DOJ.
At the meeting, Mayor Russ Axelrod suggested that $50,000 for OIR to complete the investigation might be "overkill," saying that the investigation is bound to overlap with some of the work done by the oversight task force.
A work agreement between OIR group and the city set a broad scope of work that includes delving into questions related to responsibility, reporting authority and procedures of internal police investigations or liability claims.
According to a description of the investigation's scope in the contract, the investigators will also look into recusal of the police chief in certain circumstances and how the department deals with potential conflicts of interest.
"With particular respect to the Michael Fesser matter, why was a Police officer that was accused
of violating an individual's civil rights only marginally disciplined and later promoted?" is another question listed in the investigation agreement.
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