Acting West Linn Police Chief Peter Mahuna fired Sergeant Tony Reeves Tuesday, June 16. Reeves had been on leave since February when the city paid a $600,000 racial discrimination lawsuit to Michael Fesser, a black Portland man who sued the city after he was wrongfully arrested by WPLD. The settlement was followed by a string of revelations about WLPD's unlawful and racially motivated arrest of Fesser, which was led by Reeves.
"My decision was primarily based upon the following information: (Reeves) being barred from testifying in criminal cases brought by the Clackamas County District Attorney's Office; providing evidence discovered in Mr. Fesser's vehicle at the time of his arrest to Mr. Benson; the intentional deletion of homophobic, racist and misogynistic text messages with Mr. Benson, and the irreparable loss of public trust and confidence in his ability to be a fair and unbiased police officer," Mahuna wrote in a press release. "Sergeant Reeves also caused harm to the image and professionalism of the West Linn Police Department."
In 2017, Fesser's boss at the Southeast Portland towing Company A&B Towing, Eric Benson, contacted his friend, then WLPD-chief Terry Timeus, because he feared feared Fesser was going to file a lawsuit against him and the company for racial discrimination he endured at work. WLPD began its investigation of Fesser based on Benson's suspicion that he was stealing from auto auctions. It was eventually revealed the investigation was rife with illegitimate and inappropriate behavior from Reeves and the other officers involved.
A recent investigation from the Clackamas County District Attorney's office resulted in a recommendation for the Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training revoke Reeves' certification as a police officer and determined that Reeves was compromised to the degree that more than 500 cases would need to be reviewed.
According to the press release issued Tuesday, Mahuna met with Reeves and his attorney the day before his dismissal and allowed him to make his case for why he should keep his job.
Mahuna's letter of dismissal to Reeves cited many reasons for the decision, including WLPD policy violations and the DA's report.
"Perceptions of your central role in the arrest of Mr. Fesser, your collaboration with Mr. Benson to create evidence, and your willing participation in text message banter that included racist, homophobic and misogynistic language, have been widely publicized in the media," Mahuna's letter reads. "This brought immeasurable discredit to the WLPD, undermined Department-wide efforts to build the public's trust, and made you unfit to represent the Department in any law enforcement position."
Community members have called for the dismissal of Reeves since the investigation became a nationwide scandal in February of this year. More recently, citizens have added Mahuna and the names of other officers to their list of requested oustings. Mahuna and Chief Terry Kruger, who is currently on paid administrative leave, were not with WLPD at the time of the Fesser investigation or arrest, but have been accused of keeping damning details of the case secret.
Mahuna asserted in his letter that he believed the department should have taken stricter action against Reeves after its own internal investigation of Reeves in 2018. Reeves was only given a written reprimand following the internal investigation.
Mahuna's letter goes on to explain why his conduct in the investigation was unethical and mentioned a previous DA Brady investigation of Reeves for inappropriate comments with "racist undertones."
Brady V. Maryland was a landmark 1963 court case ruling that prosecutors must disclose information which may be favorable to the defendant. Mahuna notes that the DA did not find any Brady violations in this previous investigation of Reeves, but he was "on notice that conduct giving the appearance of racial discrimination could result in you being placed on a Brady list and barred from giving testimony in criminal cases."
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