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Council supports police acountability legislation proposed by People of Color Caucus

PMG FILE PHOTO - The West Linn City Council sent the letter to the Oregon Legislature Thursday, June 18.In a letter to the Legislature sent Thursday, June 18, the West Linn City Council pledged support for legislation proposed by Oregon's People of Color (POC) Caucus on police accountability.

"The City of West Linn is currently dealing with problems in past police practices reflecting systemic racism, cronyism, and other institutional barriers that prevented justice and accountability in law enforcement," the letter states. "These can no longer be tolerated in West Linn or anywhere."

The POC caucus is asking legislators to consider SB1567, a bill introduced in the last session barring an arbitrator from lessening discipline of a law enforcement officer by the officer's agency if the arbitrator found the officer committed misconduct. The caucus will also push legislation requiring a Department of Justice investigation, and possible prosecution, if police use of force causes serious injury or death.

Lastly, the POC caucus wants the House Judiciary Committee to convene a bipartisan work group to examine state law on use of deadly force.

Gov. Kate Brown called a special session of the Legislature for June 24 to address the police reforms, along with the COVID-19 pandemic.

In their letter, West Linn councilors say they are interested in participating in the Legislature's conversations on police accountability.

"We are taking a variety of actions in West Linn to rebuild community trust and ensure we have safe, equitable policing policies that address pervasive racial barriers, but we also need a strong framework of state laws to address the many changes needed in law enforcement practices," the letter states.

Over the past five months, the city of West Linn has discussed police accountability and reform after revelations concerning WLPD's racist and unlawful 2017 arrest of a black Portland man, Michael Fesser, plunged the city into a nationwide scandal.

The city is pursuing the creation of a police oversight task force, along with an investigation into the arrest of Fesser. However some community members have called for further action from the city, like the termination of officers involved in the arrest and handling of the case in the immediate aftermath.

The city fired the lead detective of the case, Tony Reeves, June 16, though some citizens have also called for the ousting of department leaders like Police Chief Terry Kruger, who is on administrative leave, and acting police chief Peter Mahuna. Those citizens said although Kruger and Mahuna were not with the department at the time of Fesser's arrest, they did not do enough to hold the involved officers responsible.

An investigation from the U.S. Department of Justice is also underway and may lead to prosecution against the involved officers, as some have called for.

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